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J. A. GILES, D.C.L. 


Est pro justitia caesus in ccclcsia. 












XXVII. The Archbishop made Legate for England 

his removal from Pontigny ..... 1 

XXVIII. Letters written in the year 1166, before the 

appointment of the Legates .... 10 

LETTER XL. The Archbishop to Henry of Winchester . ib. 
XLI. John of Salisbury to the Archbishop of Can- 
terbury 11 

XL1I. The Archbishop of Canterbury to Gilbert, 

Bishop of London 19 

XLIII. The Archbishop to the Bishop of London and 

the other Bishops of England 21 

XL IV. John of Salisbury to Bartholomew of Exeter . 22 

XLV. The King of England to the Cardinals ... 31 

XLVI. Arnulf of Liseaux to the Archbishop of Canter- 

terbury 34 

XLVII. John of Salisbury to Gerard Pucelle ... 36 

XL VI 1 1. William, Bishop Elect of Chartres, to Pope 

Alexander 42 

XLIX. The Archbishop of Canterbury to Silvester, 

Treasurer of Lisieux . , 44 

The Bishop of London to King Henry . 









Proceedings of William and Otto during the 

year 1167 

The Pope to the Archbishop of Canterbury . 
Otto the Cardinal to the Archbishop .... 

Letters written during the year 1167, on the 
proceedings of the Legates, William and 
Otto . 




LETTER L 1 1 1. Pope Alexander to Louis, King of France . ib. 

LIV. The Archbishop to John, his Envoy .... 60 

LV. The Archbishop of Canterbury to the Pope . 64 

LVI. The Archbishop to Conrad, Elect of Mayence 66 

LVII. The Archbishop of Canterbury to John, the 

Cardinal of St. John's and St. Paul's ... 71 

LVIII. The Archbishop of Canterbury to the Bishop 

of London 74 

LIX. John of Salisbury to the Bishop of Constance 75 

LX. John of Salisbury to Archdeacon Reginald . 77 

LXI. The Archbishop to Roger of Worcester . . 80 

LXII. Cardinal William of Pavia to the Archbishop 

of Canterbury 81 

LXIII. The Archbishop's reply 82 

LXIV. The same to the same 83 

LXV. The Archbishop to Cardinal Hyacinth ... 85 

LXVI. The Archbishop to the Pope 8? 

LXVII. The Archbishop to the Pope 90 

LXVI1I. John of Salisbury to a Friend in England . 103 

LXIX. To the Archbishop from a Friend at the 

King's Court 108 

LXX. William of Pavia to Gilbert of London . . 114 

LXXI. The Archbishop to the Pope 115 

LXXII. Becket to William of Pavia 119 

XXXI. Attempt to procure the restoration of the 
Archbishop's Clerks Interview with the 

King 121 


XXXII. Proceedings of the year 1168 Envoys sent 

from the Pope Letters, &c 126 

LETTER LXXIII. The Archbishop to Alexander and John, his 

Agents 130 

LXXIV. The Archbishop to Richard, Elect of Syracuse 133 

LXXV. The Archbishop to the Pope 135 

LXXVI. The Archbishop to John of Poitiers . ... 137 
LXXVII. The Archbishop of Canterbury to Simon and 

Bernard de Corilo 139 

XXXIII. Breach of the Truce, and the Renewal of 

the French King's Favour Letters . 154 
LETTER LXXVIII. The Archbishop of Canterbury to the Pope . 159 

LXXIX. To the Pope from his Envoys, Simon, Prior 
of Montdieu, and Engelbert, Prior of Val 
St. Pierre 161 

LXXX. The Archbishop of Canterbury to the Pope . 164 
LXXXI. The Archbishop to William of Pavia ... 169 

LXXXII. The Archbishop of Canterbury to Conrad of 

Mayence 170 

XXXIV. Conduct of the Bishop of London He and 

the Bishop of Salisbury are excommuni- 
cated by the Archbishop Letters . .173 

LETTEB LXXX1II. The Bishop of London to the Bishop of 

Salisbury 180 

LXXXIV. To Thomas, Archbishop of Canterbury . . 181 

LXXXV. To the Bishop 186 

LXXXVI. To the Dean and Clergy 187 

LXXXVII. The Bishop of Worcester to the Chapter 

of Canterbury 189 

LXXXVII1. The Bishop of London to King Henry . . 192 

LXXXVIII. The same to the same 193 

LXXXIX. King Henry to the Bishop of London . . 194 

XC. The King of England to the Pope ... 195 

XCI. The Archbishop of Canterbury to 1 1 unibald, 

Bishop of Ostia 198 



LETTER XCII. The Archbishop to Cardinal John ... 206 

XXXV. Gratian and Vivian appointed Legates Con- 

ference at St. Denys and Montmartre 
Letters 209 

LETTER XCIII. Vivian to the Archbishop ib. 

XCIV. The same to the same 210 

XCV. The Archbishop of Canterbury to Master 

Vivian 212 

XCVI. The Archbishop of Canterbury to the Arch- 
bishop of Sens 225 

XCVII. The Archbishop of Canterbury to his Clerks, 

John and Alexander 233 

The Archbishop's Petition 240 

The King's Answer 241 

XCVII. Gratian to Geoffrey Ridel and others . . 243 

XXXVI. Bishop of London absolved Becket's Dis- 

tress Prince Henry crowned in defiance 
of the Pope's Mandate Bishop of Wor- 
cester ............ 244 

LETTER XCVIII. The Archbishop to the King 247 

XCI X . The Archbishop of Canterbury to the Arch- 
bishop of Rouen 249 

C. The Archbishop to Cardinal Albert . . . 251 

CI. The Archbishop to his Clerks, Alexander 

and John 254 

CII. The Pope to Roger, Archbishop of York, 
Hugh, Bishop of Durham, and all the 
Bishops of England 257 

CII I, The Pope to the Archbishop of York and 

the other Bishops of England .... 258 

CIV. The Archbishop of Canterbury to the Arch- 
bishop of York 259 

CV. The Archbishop to Roger of Worcester . 20 1 




XXXVII. Henry II. threatened wtth an Interdict 
Peace made at Freitval The Pope's 
Letters, suspending and excommunicat- 
ing the Bishops the King's tardiness 
in fulfilling his engagements the Arch- 
bishop takes leave of his hosts at St. Co- 
lumba's, and of the French King . 

The Archbishop to the Bishop of London . 
To the Archbishop from his Messengers . 


The Archbishop to the Pope 282 


CIX. The Archbishop to the King of Eng- 
land 287 

CX. King Henry to the Archbishop of Canter- 
bury 292 

XXXVIII. The Archbishop lands his Progress to 

Canterbury to London and back the 
Bishops go to the King his Anger 
the Four Knights 293 

LETTER CXI. To Earl Hugh 306 

CXII. To William, Bishop of Norwich .... 308 

XXXIX. Of the Martyrdom of the Archbishop in the 

Cathedral Church of Canterbury . . .317 

XL. Of the Spoliation of the Archiepiscopal 
Palace, and of the untimely end of the 
Murderers 341 

XLI. Of the removal and burial of the Body . . 348 

XLII. Sensation produced on the King and through 

Europe by the Deed Letters .... 357 

LETTER CXIII. Arnulf to Pope Alexander ib. 

CXIV. The Archbishop of Sens to Pope Alex- 
ander 359 

CXV. The same to the same 363 



LETTER CXVI. The King of England's Clerks to the King . 366 

CXVII. Richard, Archdeacon of Poitiers, to a 

Friend 368 

CXVIII. From a Friend to a Friend 372 

CXIX. Pope Alexander to the Chapter of Canter- 
bury 376 

CXX. Pope Alexander to the Cardinals, Albert and 

Theodwine 377 






THE Christian Church, very soon after its estab- 
lishment throughout Europe, was divided out in 
the different kingdoms into the dioceses, which 
exist with very little alteration of the original 
plan until the present day. The strict discipline 
which has always appeared in its practice, is due 
to the regularity and completeness of its first 
constitution. The bishops of the different dio- 
ceses, though each independent of the other, were 
united in obedience to the archbishop, who was 
their metropolitan, and to whom on their con- 
secration they professed obedience. These me- 




tropolitans, in their turn, were united in subjec- 
tion to the patriarch : and the strong distinction, 
which has always existed between the East and 
the West, the Greeks and the Latins, has virtually, 
as far as the Latin kingdoms of Europe are con- 
cerned, caused the patriarch of Rome, which is 
the capital of the empire of the Latins, to be 
considered as the head of the Catholic or uni- 
versal Church. Such was the constitution of the 
ecclesiastical establishment which succeeded the 
ages of the apostles. We have seen in a former 
chapter the authority and effect with which this 
institution carried out its decrees and enforced 
its ordinances. There were, however, many ad- 
ditional modes by which so vast a machine was 
kept in order, more particularly for removing 
obstacles to its motion and derangements of its 
parts, such as were sure to arise in so vast an 
extent of empire. The successive gradations of 
papal, metropolitan, and episcopal jurisdiction 
could not be long maintained without the power 
of appeal ; and the pope to whom the appeal was 
ultimately made, must be frequently liable to 
have his attention distracted to all parts of Europe 
at the same time. This led to the institution of 
legates, to whom was committed so much of the 
papal power as was sufficient to effect the object 
required, or as might be consistent with the views 
of the pontiff who at that particular period filled 


the papal chair. It was not usual for the popes 
to give full powers to their legates ; for delegated 
authority is proverbially liable to abuse : the 
cardinals, who were generally sent on these 
missions, could speedily release themselves from 
all their obligations by throwing them on the 
shoulders of the pope, and, as they were less 
inaccessible to corruption than their superior, the 
cause of the Church might suffer, and the in- 
tegrity of the holy see be impaired by their 
cupidity. It was more usual to appoint legates, 
with limited and well-defined powers, from the 
prelates of the country in which the legatine 
authority was to be exercised. This was more 
agreeable to the temporal monarch, and gave no 
additional stimulus to bribery and corruption, 
for the archbishop of Canterbury or any other 
high dignitary of the English Church, acting in 
his own country as the pope's legate, would have 
no more temptation to exercise his power wrong- 
fully, than if he were without the accession of 
dignity, which as the deputy of the pope he pos- 
sessed. It was an important privilege to be made 
the pope's legate, for he who bore this commis- 
sion had power to rectify all abuses in the dioceses 
of other bishops, which otherwise could only come 
before him by an appeal. When archbishop 
Becket prepared himself to fulminate the excom- 
munications at Vezelay, he did not lose sight of 



the advantge which a legatine commission might 
give him; " for," says Herbert de Bosham, "we 
had once before sent some of our professors to 
the apostolic see, and through them obtained the 
legatine authority over all England." This was 
done by way of precaution, that an ecclesiastical 
sentence might come with greater force and 
authority, whether pronounced against the king 
or his subjects ; wherefore, when the archbishop 
pronounced his threat against the king at Vezelay, 
as we have before related, he was legate of the 
apostolic see, although prevented by his situation 
from entering the country of his legation. 

This was the position of things, when it be- 
came necessary for both parties to send delegates 
to Rome, where the court was now held, in pro- 
secution of the appeal of the bishops. A splendid 
embassy was accordingly sent from England, to 
represent the king, the bishops, and others who 
were concerned in the controversy. On the part 
of the archbishop were sent some of his clerks, 
and we may fully believe the historian, who says 
that they had no gold nor silver to take with 
them as presents, and that they hardly carried 
more than was sufficient for their journey. 

Meanwhile the king, burning with indignation 
at the excommunication of several of his subjects, 
and the threats which had been held out against 
himself, devised a mode of annoying his enemy, 


which was equally ungenerous as his former act, of 
banishing the archbishop's kinsfolk. The monas- 
tery of Pontigny, in which Becket had now been 
residing nearly two years, belonged to the Cister- 
cian order, and was situated not far from Citeaux, 
the principal house of the Cistercians. A general 
chapter of the Cistercians was held in the month 
of September, 1166 6 , and a letter was then read 
from the king of England, signifying to the fra- 
ternity that they were harbouring in one of their 
houses his personal enemy, Thomas, archbishop 
of Canterbury. If, however, they attached any 
value to the houses and lands which the Cistercian 
order possessed in his dominions either in Eng- 
land or on the continent, they would no longer 
entertain the archbishop. This hint, by which 
the dissolution of their society throughout the 
territories of king Henry was not obscurely in- 
timated, was too serious to be neglected. The 
proceedings of the chapter lasted three days, 
after which the Cistercian abbat himself, Gilbert 
by name, the bishop of Pavia, who had once been 
a monk of the order, and several other abbats 
with him, hastened to Pontigny, to communicate 
the king's letter to the brethren. A meeting 
was at once called, and the archbishop was pre- 
sent. The deputation read the king's letter to 

' " Proximo die sanctae crucis." Herb, de Bosham. 


the brethren, and then addressed their discourse 
to the archbishop. " My lord," said they, " the 
chapter does not drive you out of their house 
in consequence of an order such as this : they 
merely lay the letter before you and your wise 
counsellors, whom you have about you, that you 
may consider and decide what is to be done. 
The chapter knows well, and we who are here 
present know well, that your regard for the Cis- 
tercian order is too great to allow a heavy calamity 
to befal it." 

This hint was as intelligible to the archbishop 
and his clerks as the king's message had been 
to the Cistercians : but it could hardly give offence 
to the exiles, who had been so long maintained 
in the monastery, and the threatened vengeance 
of the king was too severe to allow the arch- 
bishop's exposing his generous hosts to suffer 
from its infliction. A few hasty words were 
exchanged with his clerks, by whose advice he 
at once signified his intention of withdrawing 
from the hospitable roof. " The Lord," continued 
he, " who feeds the birds of the air, and clothes 
the lilies, will provide for me and my fellow 
exiles." " All the assembly," as Herbert de 
Bosham, who was present, relates it, " and par- 
ticularly our own abbat and the brethren of 
Pontigny, who had been so kind to us, were 
moved at these words, and left the room in tears. 


For I will state what I saw and heard : Warin 
de Garlard, of blessed memory, who was then 
abbat, and all the brethren of that monastery were 
unwilling that we should leave them, and opposed 
our departure as long as they were able." But 
the stern necessity of the case, implicating, not 
themselves, but their whole order, compelled 
them to submit, and it only remained for the 
archbishop and his clerks to determine where 
they should seek a new asylum. In this emer- 
gency the promise which had formerly been made 
by the French king to aid them in time of need, 
recurred to their minds. Herbert de Bosham 
was dispatched forthwith to the French king, 
whom he fell in with as he was on a journey 
with his whole court. The news of the arch- 
bishop's removal from Pontigny caused him much 
surprise, and he expressed his regret that the 
monks should still be so attached to the world, as 
to fear the threats of princes. The result of this 
interview was even more favourable than had 
been anticipated ; for the messenger returned 
to Pontigny with authority from the king to 
choose whatever town, castle, or monastery suited 
them best in his dominions, and they were 
further assured that the royal treasury should 
furnish every thing that was necessary for their 
support. This favourable intelligence was re- 
ceived with joy by the exiles, who departed 


without further delay, amid the regret and lamen- 
tations of their hospitable entertainers 7 . They 
bent their steps to the city of Sens, which was 
not far from Pontigny, and withdrew to the 
monastery of St. Columba, a short distance with- 
out the walls, because they there hoped to unite 
the advantages of a town with that retirement 
from the bustle of the streets which was favour- 
able to meditation and literary pursuits. In this 
new place of residence the archbishop and his 
party remained four years in undisturbed tran- 
quillity, when, peace being at length made be- 
tween them and the king, he returned to Eng- 
land, to Canterbury, and to martyrdom ! 

Whilst this change of residence was occupying 
the attention of the exiles at Pontigny, events 
were passing over the stage with dramatic rapi- 
dity at Rome and in the king's dominions, both 

7 When the archbishop was taking leave of the brethren of 
Pontigny, he burst into tears, and was rebuked by the abbat 
for his unmanliness. " Why do you mourn," said he, " do 
you want money for your necessities, or a more splendid equi- 
page ? Is there aught more that we can do for you ?" " It is 
not that," replied the archbishop, " but I feel that my days 
are numbered : I dreamt last night that I was put to death." 
" Do you think you are going to be made a martyr then ?" 
said the abbat ; " you eat and drink too much for that : martyr- 
dom and good living do not well agree together." " I know 
I indulge too much," said the archbishop, " but God is merciful, 
und he has revealed his will to me ; albeit I am unworthy of his 
favour." Will. Cant. 


insular and continental : the legatine commission 
of the archbishop could not be exercised until 
notice of it had been sent to the bishops of the 
several dioceses : on the other hand, the king, 
since the receipt of the archbishop's denunciatory 
letters, had issued the most severe proclamations 
against any one who should bring letters from 
the pope into his dominions ; for the appeal, by 
its very nature, could last no longer than the 
period which was originally fixed for it, and his 
ambassadors at the court of Rome were doing 
their uttermost to secure the appointment of 
legates who might be friendly to his party. All 
these negotiations occupied the latter part of 
the year 1166. To the same period belong the 
letters contained in the next chapter, which bring- 
down the history to the month of December, 
when the cardinals, William and Otho, were ap- 
pointed legates, to effect, if possible, a mediation 
between the parties. 







" WITH what earnestness we sympathize with you 
the Searcher of hearts best knows. We are not 
ignorant how many things there are to annoy you, 
and how few there are, or rather none, who stand 
by you, or encourage you in the storm. But 
cheer up, and strengthen yourself, lest our ene- 
mies prevail, and entangle you in their wiles and 
circumventions. Those who tread among serpents, 
and along a tortuous path, must use the cunning 
of the serpent. This we speak to you as a brother, 
and one beloved in Christ. 

" But we have somewhat against you, even a 
serious offence, at which we have much been 
grieved. We have heard for certain that you 
have alienated from your Church its silver cross ; 


a most imprudent act, which we pronounce to be 
contrary to all the canons. For the canons 
strictly forbid such alienations. We enjoin you, 
therefore, and command you, by virtue of your 
obedience, within forty days after the receipt 
of this letter, to use every means for restoring 
the aforesaid cross to the possession of the Church, 
over which, by God's permission, you preside. 
Failing which, we cite you within two months 
after the forty days, to appear in our presence to 
answer for the above-named alienation. And so, 
my brother, farewell ! " 



" THE consolatory letters which your faithful 
children, the bishops of the province of Canter- 
bury, lately sent you, after your long exile and 
proscription, I have carefully perused, and I look 
upon them as dictated by Ahitophel himself come 
to life, and written by a second Doeg of Idu- 
mea, thirsting for the blood of Christ and his 
elect. Everything is therein so perverted that it is 
easy for any one to see how irreconcilable they 
are with public opinion and the voice of truth, and 
how manifestly they have been framed to give 
a colour of justice to the appeal of the bishops. 
Solomon says, in the Proverbs, that the end is 


better than the beginning ; but in this case it 
is most assuredly worse : they begin with health 
and obedience ! and I could have wished that 
the salutation had been sincere, and that they 
had not offended against God's commands by 
speaking peace with their lips and bearing malice 
in their hearts. Then follows a plausible history, 
which a condemned criminal would be glad to 
listen to in commutation of his sentence, in which 
they justify their conduct, calling good evil and 
evil good, and seem to draw the inference, that 
whoever resists a king deserves death. They say, 
Heaven knows with what truth, * we do not 
assert that our lord the king has never erred, 
but we say and assert with confidence, that 
he has always been ready to make atonement 
to the Lord for what he may have done amiss.' 
Must not their face be as brazen as a harlot's, 
and their forehead harder than adamant, to assert 
so confidently the innocence of one whose malice 
is so notorious to all Christendom ? The bishops 
of London and Hereford, it is said, called him 
to account, and he told them that he would listen 
to reason ; but was not this bishop of London 
the man who first rent the unity of the Church 
in England, and laid the foundation for all these 
disturbances ? Does not the letter exhibit all 
the malice of Ahitophel and Doeg, with the 
addition of his own, in which he is inferior to 


neither of them ? His language betrays him. I 
do not mind what he says about your entrance 
upon the episcopal office, because I was present 
and saw what happened. He was the only per- 
son who objected to your promotion, because, as 
may be shown in many ways, he aspired more 
than all the others to the station which you 
occupy. Yet he did not dare to murmur long, 
because the others checked his ambition and his 
impudence. Whatever then might be his feeling, 
which God alone can judge, he was one of the 
foremost in electing you, and applauded the 
choice more than any one. What shall I say 
about him of Hereford ? only that he for a very 
long time remained with only the shadow of a 
reputation, and that not a great one, before he 
was known at last to the world. And now, be- 
cause he is supposed to be learned by those who 
know no more of learning than they do of him, 
they try to make him a veil for their own malice, 
that their own conduct may be thought reason- 
able, because it is approved of by a bishop and 
an elder. To reply to both these, or to acquiesce 
in their united opinion, is to adopt altogether the 
opinion of the bishop of London, according to 
what was said of Csesar and Bibulus. 

" Non Bibulo quidquam nuper, sed Caesare gestum est ; 
Nam Bibulo gestum consule nil memini. 


" With what effrontery can the bishops state 
that the king thinks compliance sweet when 
he is admonished of his errors ? All the world 
knows how impatient he is of correction, how 
he persecutes the Church, and prefers his own 
ordinances to the holy canons. To say nothing 
of you and your clerks, has he not unjustly pro- 
scribed women, children, and infants, all driven 
by his insane cruelty to the extremity of desti- 
tution and suffering ? He has revived the schism 
in the Church, which had almost died away, and 
resuscitated the storm by which the apostolic 
vessel is almost overwhelmed. If men can look 
on these things as nothing, what do they con- 
sider as acts of guilt ? All these things need 
no proof, but are as clear as the light of day, 
and the Church feels it by her daily sufferings. 
If the king deems 'compliance sweet' when he 
is admonished, what traitors must they be who 
suffer their lord, for whom they are responsible, 
to offend so enormously ? O Israel, thy prophets 
are like foxes in the desert ! our pastors are 
weaving a web to the destruction of the Church ; 
they preface their wiles by a humble salutation 
of devout obedience, and end their arguments 
with crucify him ! crucify him ! Do not save 
him, but Barabbas ! This is the health, this the 
obedience, which they offer to their father ! this 
their mode of effecting peace between the throne 


and the altar ! I have no doubt that all who 
know of our exile are acquainted with these 
things as well as I ; but when I reflected on their 
impudence, treachery, deceit, and lying, I could 
not resist alluding to the subject ; for 

" Si natura negat, facit indignatio verbum. 
Omne in praecipiti vitium stetit ! 

" Nature is dumb : but indignation speaks 
When vice thus stands on tiptoe ! 

" Their depravity is so great, that all the sub- 
tilties and refinements of posterity will be unable 
to add anything to it. But no more of this : 
may God requite them, and unless truth has 
been turned into falsehood and falsehood into 
truth, He will most assuredly requite them ac- 
cording to their desert. 

" Your reply to their malicious letter is, I 
think, most elegant and most judicious : you have 
most ably shaken to pieces the wiles which they 
had spun. Your letter is certainly long, but it 
contains no more than was necessary. I wish, 
however, you had been more particular in point- 
ing out the patience which you have so long 
manifested, and your anxiety to re-establish peace: 
how you addressed a letter to the king with all 
humility, and how afterwards the pope's mes- 
senger, as well as your own, the king's own 


mother, to whom he ought to have listened, 
several of the bishops, both Norman and English, 
templars, hospitallers, and the king of France 
himself, interceded for you ; and lastly, how 
you sought an interview yourself and were 
repulsed. But the bishops write next, that 
the king has always been ready to listen to 
justice and to do what justice demands. Now 
my advice to you is, to summon all the bishops, 
and especially those who sent this letter, his 
lordship of Salisbury, who complains of being 
unjustly suspended, and him of your own creation, 
the bishop of Worcester, and all the rest, and 
put this assertion of the king's willingness to 
the test. Perhaps they will not come : if so, 
an appeal will not justify disobedience, but your 
cause will be justified, because their falsehood 
and malice will be revealed. I cannot believe 
that all the bishops and clergy have consented 
to this nefarious act : in eighteen dioceses there 
are surely ten persons for whose sake God will 
spare that island-church, and save it from sharing 
the fate of its sisters, whose luxury and impiety 
it is imitating. There is silence I admit, but 
surely there are many, who in piety, faith, and 
the consciousness of good works, are awaiting 
the kingdom of heaven. Joseph was found in 
the house of Pharaoh, Lot in Sodom, Daniel in 


Babylon, Abdias in the palace of Ahab and 
Jezebel, and they kept silence because they could 
do no good by speaking. 

" It would be wise, therefore, if the gulf which 
is fixed so widely between us and our country 
allow it, to send your letter to all the bishops 
and churches, and so confirm the waverers, and 
stir up all to feeling. Urge each of them mildly 
and gently, by frequent letters, to return to a 
sense of their duty : but above all, be cautious 
that you show no sign of arrogance or want of 
moderation. I have heard that the bishop of 
Hereford was formerly, in the schools, as eager 
of praise, as he was a despiser of money. Perhaps 
nothing would have so much influence on him 
as a letter from the prior of St. Victor's, and 
the other schoolmasters and priors who were 
once so intimate with him in France. Let them 
exhort him by letter to show himself a bishop 
such as he used formerly to describe a bishop 
in the schools, and to redeem his fame by casting 
off the vices which he then censured. The same 
plan may be followed with the bishop of Wor- 
cester. However, I have no great hopes of them, 
nor do I anticipate much good from the king 
of France, when it comes to the worst ; but you 
must consider this, like all the rest, said to you 
in confidence. I do not place much reliance 
on the court of Rome : whose necessities and 

VOL. n. c 


mode of acting I now see through. Our lord 
the pope, indeed, is a holy and righteous man, 
and his abbat, as I am told by many, does his 
best to imitate him : but their necessities are 
so great, and the dishonesty and cupidity of the 
Romans are so startling, that the pope sometimes 
uses his prerogative, and by dispensation obtains 
what may benefit the state, but cannot benefit 
religion. I fear you will have to wait till the 
appeal day, and then I apprehend presents will 
have their weight, and the givers will expect 
something in return. The times are very bad, 
and the circumstances of all parties create ap- 
prehension. Our enemies, who are the enemies 
of Christ and his Church, are resolved to wound 
us out of what has been despoiled from us. If 
it were not so, they might, out of regard to their 
own ease, be really zealous in making peace for 
us. This is only an aggravation to their malice, 
that they are enjoying their pleasures and rolling 
in wealth, whilst all the toil and hardships fall 
on us. The aid of man is denied us : let us 
pray to God that He may save us from these 
evils, present and to come, and cover us with the 
shield of his mercy." 




" WE remember having ordered you to hold as 
excommunicate throughout your diocese, and to 
signify the same to your brethren, certain persons 
whom for their injuries towards the Holy See 
and the Church of Canterbury we formerly ex- 
communicated. If you have faithfully discharged 
this order to the honour and advantage of the 
Church and your own salvation, we congratulate 
you for your fraternal obedience. But if not, 
we mourn for you, not on our account, but for 
the wrong done to the pope and the holy see. 
And may God avert from you the consequences 
of disobedience. For though the anger of the 
sovereign pontiff may be delayed, and his hand 
seems slow, yet the wound with which he punishes 
demerit, never can be healed : and no one under 
the sun can save a man out of his hand. No one 
but an infidel, or what is worse, a heretic or 
schismatic, can refuse to obey his mandates. But 
we are addressing one who knows the law, as well 
as we, who has been nurtured in virtue, in reli- 
gion, in obedience, and who needs no teaching. 
A man may cheat his own soul, but cannot cheat 
the word of God, which says, * Woe to them who 
justify the wicked, and call good evil, and dark- 



ness light.' At present he is pronouncing that 
woe ! but will soon inflict it bitterly. He punishes 
the powerful, and exercises the severest judg- 
ments on those who neglect the duties of their 
rank, and refuse to warn the wicked of their 
wickedness. Hereafter he will crown in triumph 
those who faithfully obey, and meanwhile consoles 
those who strive against injustice. 

" We beg of you, therefore, and beseech you in 
the Lord Jesus, that whereas crimes have for our 
sins multiplied in the world, you do rise up to 
support the Church, and put forth the sword of 
the word, which is committed to us, to punish 
the evil and protect the good, that you may not 
be found to bear that sword in vain. If you 
shall see any remiss in doing right, animate and 
encourage them, and take to yourself what 
Christ, who is now again crucified by the wicked, 
said in the moment of his passion, 'And thou, 
when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.' 
You will have us to aid you in liberating the 
Church, and in nothing that concerns God's 
honour will we fail to give you our support, as 
far as his mercy shall give us strength. But our 
lord the pope will give you the aid that is re- 
quired ; and he has already committed to us to 
be his representative in England, as you may per- 
ceive from the letters which we here forward to 


" We, therefore, command you, my brother, and 
in virtue of your obedience, and in peril of your 
orders, we enjoin you, on the authority of the 
pope, to communicate these our letters to the 
fellow bishops of your province, and to the bishop 
of Durham, as speedily as possible, and afterwards 
to have them restored to us. 

" Moreover, by the same authority, and under 
the same perils, we command you to show due 
respect to the bearers, who are the accredited 
agents of our lord the pope, and provide for their 
full security, as you wish regard to be shown to 
your own dignity." 



"WE hereby forward to you letters from our 
lord the pope, in which he commands, under 
peril of his anathema, that all the possessions 
which have been taken away from our clerks 
shall be restored by those to whom the king has 
assigned them. Wherefore we command you, by 
the authority of the apostolic pontiff, within two 
months after the receipt of these letters, to cause 
restitution to be made to us of all that you 
have received from the above-named possessions, 


lest what the pope threatens fall upon you. We 
also command you to compel the clerks of your 
diocese to make similar restitution of all that 
they have received." 



" I HAD a great many things to write to you 
about, but the short time which I have to spare, 
and the worry of my necessary occupations, pre- 
vent me from doing more than alluding to them 
at present. My brother is come, thank God, 
and is most grateful to you for all your care 
of him: this adds to the weight of obligations 
under which I already lie towards you on my 
own account. I have had letters by the hand of 
a friend, warning me, and begging me to warn 
you, that the king has commanded Joceline de 
Baliol, and other ministers of his royal clemency, 
to take you and the bishop of Worcester, and 
treat you as public enemies. God grant that my 
fears may not be realised, but whatever the 
bishops may say in their letters of appeal, about 
his gentleness, justice, affability, and reverence to 
the clergy, there is no act of impiety towards 
God or cruelty towards men, of which the Franks 
and Latins do not think him capable. All are 


astonished to hear with what effrontery you have 
dared to write an episcopal letter in support of the 
man's innocence, when his injustice is the talk of all 
men, and the whole world is acquainted with his 
mode of condemning and injuring people. The 
words of your letter in the king's behalf, which 
your notary attempts to justify, are these, * The 
king promises strict justice, and is ready to show 
it by his deeds. He deems compliance sweet, 
when he is admonished to correct the offences 
which he has committed against God. He is 
not only ready to give satisfaction, but if justice 
requires it, to make a considerable sacrifice for 
that purpose.' A little further on it is stated, 
that 'he does not wish to withdraw himself in 
the slightest particular from the judgment of the 
Church, where its claim of jurisdiction is well- 
founded, on the contrary, he willingly bows his 
neck to the yoke of Christ.' A little higher up 
it is said, ' We do not say that our lord the king 
has never erred, but we say, and confidently assert, 
that he has been always ready to make amends 
to the Lord for his errors.' This, th.ey say, is a 
pretty assertion for the English bishops to make, 
a genuine and unbiassed testimony to give in 
support of the Church's liberties ! A clown or 
stage-player, they say, would be ashamed to make 
such an assertion even in jest. If your scribe 
wishes to obtain credit for what he writes, he 


must go where Latin is unknown. Wherever 
such an assertion is read in our part of the world, 

' Quaere peregrinum, vicinia rauca reclamat.' 

However, your scribe has guarded against your 
being thought to give unqualified support to the 
constitutions by the following: 'The king is 
ordained by the Lord to provide for the peace 
of his subjects ; and to preserve this to the 
churches and people committed to his care, he 
demanded that the royal dignities which had 
been observed towards his ancestors, should be 
observed towards himself.' What did the Church 
of France say to this ? ' May God and the 
holy Evangelist watch over those who wrote such 
language : the king, perhaps, may be the guar- 
dian of his people's peace, but it must be by his 
absence, for wherever he is present, he throws 
every thing into confusion !' The bishops, or, as 
I should rather say, the bishop 2 , proclaims peace ! 
but all reply, there is no peace, but bitterness, 
yea, the worst of all bitterness ! If the king, as 
your Demosthenes states, wants only his lawful 
constitutions, he ought to be content with those 
which do not impugn the law of God, or injure 
public morals, or dishonour the clergy, or bring 

2 The bishop of London. 


souls into danger, or subvert the liberties of the 
Church, his mother, from whom he received the 
sword to protect her from injury. But what he 
desires is very different from this, as is evident 
from the roll which the pope and the holy father 
condemned, and which all the clergy and people 
exclaim against to this very day. I fear much 
that the bishops themselves will be obliged to 
contravene their own letter, and unsay what they 
have said, to justify what they have condemned, 
and to condemn what they have justified. The 
statement which is drawn up in the name of 
all, bears the seal of only three of them, namely, 
that chief of the synagogue, he of London, my 
lord and friend, whom I meanwhile forgive, the 
bishop of Winchester, and that equally learned 
man, and old schoolmaster, though new bishop, 
his lordship of Hereford. Their authority would 
have been overwhelming, had not consent in evil- 
doing, and testimony to manifest falsehood, as 
evinced by this letter, and their seals attached 
to it, cast a prejudice over their fair fame. The 
other bishops, meanwhile, whose names appear 
in the inscription of the letter, are discussed 
more gently; for it cannot be believed that so 
many learned and pious men came and agreed 
together to defeat the divine law and the canons, 
and bring ruin on the Church, to the end that 
iniquity might prevail and justice be oppressed. 


Yet all, as I hear, have given weight to that 
character. If they saw this, it was unholy of 
them to give testimony to such wickedness; if 
they saw it not, it was foolish to interpose their 
own characters, and so lend authority to the ini- 
quity of others. 

"But when I have so many other things to 
say, why do I waste arguments on so clear a 
subject? That writing of yours, though you 
were to do nothing in the matter, would, by our 
diligence, find its way to the Roman pontiff, 
who by good proof knows the character of him 
whose conduct you seek to justify: he will 
speedily discover in what sincerity the bishops 
have given this testimony, and what were the 
feelings of him who acted as your scribe, who, 
as God did not further his wishes to become 
archbishop over the English Church, has been 
made head of the synagogue by the consent of 
those who are now persecuting Christ. Our lord 
the king has lately written to him through Ralph 
de Diceto his archdeacon, informing him that he 
will submit himself, his kingdom, and the cause 
which lies between him and the Church, to his 
judgment, as his spiritual father and most faith- 
ful friend : and he has commanded his officers to 
obey him in all things. If any wrong, therefore, 
befal you, or your Church, or his lordship of 
Worcester, it is to this same person that you 


must apply, that he may admonish the king 
thereof; for in that noble letter, which is now 
spreading through kingdoms and provinces, his 
majesty has declared, that ' he thinks compliance 
sweet, when he is admonished to correct an offence 
that he has committed against God.' Now he 
who sins against his neighbour, sins against God, 
and a man undoubtedly dishonours Christ the 
Bridegroom, when he dishonours the Church 
his bride. For Christ and his Church are one 
body, one spirit, and what is more, they are by 
grace one God, inasmuch as by a mysterious bond 
the Church confers that which is fleshly on the 
Lord, and receives from Him in return the ful- 
ness of the divine nature, and abounds, even to 
overflowing, with the oil of gladness. * * * 

" The king of England, as they say who have 
seen the chief of the synagogue's letters of appeal, 
has bishops well suited to him, who have taught 
their tongue to speak a lie, and have laboured to 
commit injustice. He solicits others that he may 
subvert them, and himself suffers the same at 
their hands. What a glorious, what a truly catholic 
and religious letter he must have written lately 
to the schismatical bishop of Cologne, if you 
may conjecture by his reply, which is sent you : 
it must be evident to all with what truth he made 
that bold assertion about our king's piety and 
regard for justice. 


" His majesty has lately received some ambas- 
sadors from the marquis of Montferrat, those vain 
deceivers the abbat of Selsey and the bishop 
elect of Hipporum, demanding one of the king's 
daughters in marriage for the marquis's son, and 
promising in return to have the archbishop of 
Canterbury deposed. This has led the king to 
send back with them as ambassadors, John Cumin, 
Ralph de Tamworth, and John of Oxford, though 
there is a sentence against the last, confirmed by 
the pope, depriving him of his deanery. The deed 
of deposition is in the hands of the archbishop, 
who is primate of England and legate of the 
apostolic see, and the sentence which he has 
passed against the king's counsellors and spoliators 
of the Church of Canterbury has been ratified by 
the pope, who has commanded all the bishops on 
both sides of the water to observe it. The arch- 
bishop has got the legation, and is confirmed in 
his primacy. He has written to the bishop of 
London, and to all of you, on this subject ; and I 
believe the same bishop of London has received 
the letters, which he is bound to show to you all. 

" The archbishop has also, on apostolical autho- 
rity, excommunicated, or commanded to be ex- 
communicated, all those who watch the ports, to 
impede appellants, or others who, for purposes of 
devotion, travel to the threshold of the holy 
apostles, or who make visits to himself, and has 


ordered all the bishops to cause his sentence to be 
observed in their dioceses. Moreover, though he 
does not hold as valid the appeal which the 
bishops have made against himself, yet as the 
king, bishops, and nobles, look upon it as valid, 
placing their confidence on a fleshly arm, namely, 
their own prudence, they are bound to observe 
the appeal, and to alter nothing whilst it is 

" After this, William the chaplain, and others 
of the clergy, to say nothing of laymen, were cap- 
tured by the king's orders, and besides being 
stripped of their ecclesiastical benefices, were 
treated atrociously into the bargain. The arch- 
bishop, therefore, denounced the king to the 
pope, as having offended against the canon, and in 
consequence excommunicate, unless his holiness 
looked upon the laws of the Church as no better 
than those of the state, which, according to 
Anacharsis, like spiders' webs catch little flies, but 
let large ones escape. The pope had given orders 
that the bishops of Bourges, Rouen, Tours, Bour- 
deaux, and York, should observe, and cause to be 
observed in their dioceses, the sentence which 
the archbishop of Canterbury should pronounce 
against the spoliators of his Church. But he 
added in the letters, that he neither commands 
nor forbids him to excommunicate the king in 
person, for he is unwilling to deprive the arch- 


bishop of his usual prerogatives, particularly as the 
king abuses the patience of the Church in many 
ways. He has also commanded, under peril of 
anathema, that all who, by the king's order, have 
seized the property of the archbishop's clerks, 
shall make plenary restitution, because the king, 
acting himself as a spoliator, can give no just title 
to others. 

" I did my best with his grace of Canterbury 
to keep back those letters, but he was over-per- 
suaded by the advice of others, who urged him 
not to delay the powers which the pope gave 
him, lest his holiness should die, an event which 
the king was looking out for ; and they further 
pointed out, that any backwardness on his part 
led to renewed ferocity on the part of the king. 
However, if these mandates reach you, do not 
be alarmed about any property which may have 
been abstracted from us in your parts, for any dis- 
position of our property which has met with your 
approbation, will, please God, meet with ours 
also. Let us retain our rights, and our parson- 
ages, and we care little for our moveables, parti- 
cularly if you benefit by our losses. We have 
established your innocence with the archbishop, 
and he is now sufficiently convinced of it : do not 
let any one persuade you to the contrary. He has 
sent you letters of summons, commanding you, by 
apostolical authority, in virtue of your obedience 


and in peril of your orders, to appear before him 
within forty days, without excuse or delay, to 
hear the pope's mandates, and to consult on the 
necessities of the Church. If it suits you, you 
will make use of this command as an excuse for 
coming, but if not, you have the consent of the 
writer to look upon it as no command at all. 
For we have not been trying to lay a trap for 
you, as was done to one of his friends by that 
negligent species of diligence which was shown in 
the matter ; on the contrary, we have ordered 
that the letters shall be given to Master Baldwin, 
the archdeacon, or your brother, B. Fitz-Giles, 
and afterwards to you or not, just as you please. 
You may, however, be sure that if the king does 
not set William the chaplain at liberty, sentence 
of anathema will be pronounced on his own head, 
for no mercy will be shown to any one who shall 
dare to commit such atrocities." 



" As regards the message which my lord the pope 
has sent, in which he asserts that I have alienated 
my mind from the holy see, I answer, in the 
first place, and you can substantiate from your 
own knowledge my assertion, that I have always 
loved his person, and have endured much in his 


behalf. To omit other instances, I would remind 
you that I was not persuaded by others to take 
his part, when the question of his succession was 
first raised, but did so voluntarily, and persuaded 
others also. And we have never changed these 
feelings of devotion towards him, but he has been 
most troublesome to me for a long time past, as 
his acts show; for he tampers with my nobles, 
tries to cover my person with infamy, and now 
both in his speeches and writings he calls me the 
persecutor and assailant of the Church. Let his 
lordship consider whether it is consistent of him 
to advise me to preserve a fair reputation, that 
chief object of a king's solicitude, and to endea- 
vour himself, both by word and deed, to throw 
aspersions upon it. We wish you to believe that 
whatever honours, dignity, or power we possess, 
as well as our kingdom itself, and every thing 
else committed to our care, we hold all as the gift 
of our great Creator, to whom our gratitude is 
given, not as much as He deserves, but as much 
as we are able to bestow. May our lord the pope 
pray God that we may be enabled to thank Him, 
and to reverence Him as we ought. 

" It is our wish also to continue in favour and 
love with our lord the pope, if he will have the 
same regard towards us, whether as concerns our 
person or dignity, which his predecessors had 
towards my ancestors. He says that we prevent 

1160.] TO THE CARDINALS. 33 

appeals being made from our kingdom to the 
Roman court, but we wish your prudence to be 
informed that we have never thrown impediments 
in the way of appeals being made, as they were 
made of old in the time of our ancestors, accord- 
ing to the customs and dignities of our kingdom, 
as the ancients and learned men of our king- 
dom, both clerks and laics, have received them. 
Whereas he accuses me of having corresponded 
with excommunicates, we do not think that we 
have in this offended God, or acted contrary to 
reason ; for, as we heard from our lord the pope's 
own mouth, he never looked on the emperor 
Frederic as excommunicated ; and whereas we 
have given our daughter in marriage to his son, 
we have no doubt that we have acted lawfully, 
for our grandfather Henry gave his daughter also 
in marriage to Henry the emperor, of excellent 
memory, and we, by the advice of our councillors, 
have followed his example. 

" Moreover, he has written to us that we should 
recall the archbishop of Canterbury, whom he says 
we have banished, and reinstate him in his see. 
Now we wish your fraternity clearly to under- 
stand that we did not banish him ; but it was his 
own perversity and folly which led him to flee 
of his own accord, and to do all he could to dero- 
gate from my honour, and to injure me. But if 
the same archbishop is willing to return, and to 



pay me that obedience which is due to his lord 
and king, we also, with the consent of our people, 
on both sides of the sea, will act towards him 
as we ought. But we will not recall him, for we 
have never banished him. Also we will, with the 
consent of our clergy and barons, willingly redress 
whatever we have done amiss : but if any one 
attempts to impede or abate the rights, customs, 
and dignities of our sovereignty, we will hold him 
as a public enemy, for we will not put up with 
any diminution of dignities and customs, which 
we have received from our predecessors of excel- 
lent memory, as they were in the days of former 
Roman pontiffs. 

" Lastly, whereas he has informed us through 
you, that we do afflict, or cause to be afflicted, 
certain ecclesiastical persons in our dominions ; 
God is our witness, and our own conscience, that 
we have never done so even to this very day, 
nor have we allowed the same to be done by 



"HARDLY had I been three days with his lord- 
ship of Meaux, when William Duretent came 
with your letter on the first of April. I was de- 
lighted at receiving it, and ready to comply with 


your wishes, for the next morning, if it can be 
called the morning, when it was still dark, I 
waved the sacredness of the day, and having 
received my friend the bishop's blessing, I came 
to Senlis, and had an audience with the king of 
France, whom I requested with all humility to 
procure a lodging for you. He answered with his 
usual kindness, that according to his arrangement 
with the pope, you were to take up your resi- 
dence in the Cistercian monastery of Val St. Marie, 
near Pontisare, until you should be invited to an 
audience, and that there was no need of troubling 
about it in the meantime, for it was uncertain 
whether you are yet come. To this I said that 
it was desirable to provide beforehand, on account 
of the numbers that would come together, lest 
you and your clerks might be at a loss where to 
go. Upon which he said that he would take care, 
when it came to that point, to provide for you 
according to your dignity. This was all I could 
get from him, notwithstanding all my earnestness. 
I therefore tell you what I have done in your 
matters, and wait to hear your pleasure on the 
subject. My brother's house is at your disposal, 
but it is three leagues distant from the place of 
conference. Meanwhile I will do what lies in 
my power to get you a lodging nearer the spot ; 
but I am sorry that your instructions did not 
reach me sooner. Pray tell your messenger to be 



speedy, that the matter may be settled as soon 
as possible. It is very short notice, and every 
thing is in such a bustle that there is scarcely 
a place unoccupied. God bless you, my dear 
lord !" 



"THAT I have not written to you before, and 
indeed that I write to you so seldom, and not 
until you have written twice to me, arises from 
the want of a bearer to carry my letters, besides 
which, the distance is great, and our people are 
unacquainted with the road. But friendship lives, 
though the offices of charity are dormant, and 
we cannot indulge as we would wish in an in- 
terchange of thought. But in this personal 
absence, the vigour of our feelings is increased, 
and the mind is schooled to bear its load with 
patience. Yet I wish we could come together, 
and indulge in sweet converse, and strengthen 
one another against all contingencies. But God 
wills it otherwise, and we cannot change his will, 
and to those who obey Him every thing will work 
for good. You have told me all about yourself, 

* Gerard was at this time residing among the adherents of 
the antipope Octavian, and the schismatical emperor Frederic. 


and I thank you much for it. You have asked 
my advice by the agency of master Ralph. I 
reply that I hope God's mercy may provide for 
you without my interference, and that by my 
humble services, he may deign to bestow on 
you whatever may conduce to your honour, your 
profit, and your salvation. I will tell you what 
I think without disguise, as becomes a friend, 
and with that fidelity which has always given 
such satisfaction to my masters. Know then, 
that there are various opinions about your de- 
parture, many blame the change, some make 
excuses for it. The multitude did not know 
your intentions and necessities, nor the indul- 
gence which you had received from the Roman 
pontiff, or the profit that may accrue to the 
Church from this arrangement. They look only 
to the crime of schism, the malice of those to 
whom you have gone over, and the danger of 
living among those who are excommunicated. 
They judge rightly, and when they see a man 
mixed up with the reprobate, they think that he 
is consenting to their error. But I, who know 
your motives intimately, agree with the multi- 
tude in part only. In condemning schism they 
are right : for the punishment of Dathan, Korah, 
and Abiram, shows what God has thought of 
schism from the very first, as we read their his- 
tory in the book of Numbers. The same infer- 


ence may be drawn from the history of Elisha 
and Naaman, in the fourth book of Kings 4 . 

" If then Naaman, who was a Gentile, so feared 
to enter the temple of Rimmon, what ought a 
Christian philosopher, a teacher of the law, to 
feel ? But he who, living among such, is a bold 
assertor of the truth, is not tainted by their 
contact. Thus Lot dwelt in Sodom, Joseph in 
Pharaoh's house, and Daniel received commands 
from God in the city of Babylon. It is, there- 
fore, my wish, that among schismatics you should 
preach peace with that wisdom and moderation 
which shall be serviceable to the Church, for 
whose sake God has sent you among those barba- 
rians. The apostle became all things to all men, 
that he might gain all, and he preached Christ 
through evil report and good report. So you 
should preach Christ to the emperor, if you can, 
for to his lordship of Cologne you undoubtedly 
will be able. They will not strive to cloak their 
error : their conscience condemns them, and their 
power is already falling. Who could equal 
Frederic, till he became a tyrant and a schismatic, 
instead of a king and a Catholic ? I do not say 
that he has erred on matters of faith, but of 
Church discipline. He has severed the priest- 
hood from the Lord, and now the Lord 

4 According to the Latin vulgate. 


severed his own empire from him. The king of 
England also, who was once the terror of the 
neighbouring kings, has lifted up his heel against 
the Church, and tried to reduce her to servitude, 
and now he is made the victim of an unarmed 
race 5 of men, and obliged to ask help from 
others : you tell me he is still forming scheme 
after scheme, but unless God's Spirit speak falsely 
his wiles shall fall upon his own head, for the 
wicked are caught in their own snares, and he 
who digs a pit for others, shall fall into it him- 

" I sent your letter to his lordship of Canter- 
bury, but because I could not detain your mes- 
senger beyond the feast of St. Remy [Oct. 1], 
I have not yet received the archbishop's answer. 
It is certain that he feels grateful to you for 
your services, and when he has an opportunity 
will requite them. There is no doubt that in his 
own person, he has gained both in moral virtues and 
in learning more than enough to compensate for 
the king's oppressions. His primacy is moreover 
confirmed to him afresh, and the archbishop of 
York is commanded to recognize it and to obey 
him. He is also legate of all England, except the 
province of York, which is exempted from our 

* The king of England had about this time met with some 
severe reverses in his wars against the Welsh. 


jurisdiction, because its archbishop is legate of 
Scotland, and the Roman Church is not used to 
subject one legate to another. But on the other 
hand, it does not cancel allegiance if it exists on 
any other grounds. 

"Our king hopes that William of Pavia and 
another cardinal may be sent as legates, to decide 
the question, as he thinks, in his favour. But 
he has himself prevented this by his unheard-of 
exactions and injuries. 

" It seems to me, therefore, that you should 
persuade his lordship of Cologne to see the king 
face to face, in the hope of advice and friend- 
ship, to point out to him the difficulties in which 
his cause is involved. For how can the arch- 
bishop, according to the canons, be compelled to 
carry on his cause after an appeal, whilst he is 
in a state of spoliation ? He should first be re- 
stored, and peace be made, besides many other 
things which the canons prescribe. He and his 
men have been spoiled to the value of more than 
ten thousand marks, and until all this is made 
good, his persecutors, even if they had justice 
on their side, could not compel him to answer. 

" Thus, then, is a wide field of negotiation open to 
you, if by any chance you can persuade him through 
your friend of Cologne, to desist from these out- 
rages, which give his adversaries so many handles 
against him. A short time since the bishop of 


Chichester tried this, telling the king he was 
the best supporter the archbishop had ; ' For,' 
said he, when asked what he meant, 'you put 
him in the right by your own violent proceed- 
ings ; and, whatever were the merits of your 
own cause, you make them of no avail. You 
provide him too with the counsel and assistance 
of the best or some of the best clerks in your 
dominions, by driving them into exile with him, 
and not permitting their return.' The king was 
moved at this, and betrayed his solicitude with 
sighs ; but wrath prevailed over wisdom. 

"To go on to another point: you know you 
once had a friend in the king of France; and 
you cannot tell what the future may bring about ; 
so, whether he is offended at your departure or 
not, I advise you to present him some little 
token from you, in the one case to recover his 
favour, or in the other to renew it. There is 
nothing however which would do so much for 
you with himself and the whole French Church, 
and even the Romans, as to make it known that, 
as becomes a philosopher and a Christian, you 
bear your testimony to the truth, preferring 
honesty to the wealth of Croesus and all manner 
of delicacies. If a moralist and a heathen could 
so well say in the praise of literature 

' Quia vatis avarus 
Haud temere est animus,' 


ought not a philosopher and a herald of the 
Gospel to be ashamed of encumbering himself 
with this world's goods? But I hope in the 
Lord, that by some counsel or inquisition, 
or in some other way, as He sees best, He 
will give you an opportunity to speak truth in 
the ears of Princes, to the advantage both of 
their souls and your own, and may the spirit of 
your father give it effect ! 

" Do not be deterred, by what you see faulty 
in the Roman Church : our Lord tells us not 
to imitate the acts of those who sit in Moses's 
seat, but in our own acts to exemplify their 
doctrines. Farewell, and forget not your friend, 
for he never forgets you !" 



" As the strength of the limbs flows from the 
head, so the safety of all the Churches proceeds 
from the holy Roman see, which is their head. 
A noble member of that body is the see of 
Canterbury, the metropolitan Church of the 
English nation : which was the means of convert- 
ing all the island from idolatry, and all the 
other Churches of that land ought to revere her 
as their mother in Christ. The king of England 


is doing his best not to cripple but to destroy 
her, and to destroy with her all ecclesiastical 
liberty, so that the authority of the apostolic 
see will speedily be annihilated, and his own 
will become law in all his dominions. Unless 
his audacity is checked, it is to be feared that 
other kings and potentates will be encouraged 
to similar acts of daring against God's Church, 
for men think lawful whatever they see goes on 
unpunished. The noble archbishop of Canterbury 
is exiled amongst us because he opposed such 
iniquities, and dared to uphold the apostolic 
privileges, and speak in the Church's cause. 
This matter concerns you, holy father, for 
it is you who will feel the evils of such pre- 
sumption. God's mercy hath reserved for you 
in the exercise of your apostolic authority to 
subdue this tyranny, and the victory will redound 
to your glory. If the king prevails, which God 
forbid ! the English Church is lost, and the Galli- 
can Church is in danger. Your devoted son, 
the most Christian king of the French, together 
with the Church and nobles of his kingdom, are 
waiting to see what help you will bestow on 
the archbishop who is exiled in the Church's 
cause, and what consolation you will offer to 
the suffering and fainting Church. They are 
waiting, I say, and they will consider whatever 
you may do for the archbishop as a service 


rendered to themselves more especially if you 
will confound that John of Oxford and his ac- 
complices, for having made an execrable treaty 
with the emperor against the Church of God. 
If you will examine minutely the contrivances 
of the English king, you will detect the cunning 
of the fox, and the Church's liberties will be 
safe. All that king's actions are so suspicious 
to us and our neighbours, that it is become a 
proverb among us, * Blessed is he who dashes his 
little ones against the rock.' As he is thoroughly 
known to all his neighbours, I hope he may be 
known to your holiness and to all the world. 
We pray your majesty, therefore, to open your 
ears to the people's vows, and to hear the prayers 
which the archbishop and his followers put up in 
the cause of God and his Church. For your 
holiness may be sure that the king and nobles 
of France join most heartily in their cause." 



" IF the man speaks proudly, who can introduce 
novelties into the compact of an oath, we hold it 
in no wise a thing to be wondered at. It is 
better for us to fall by the wickedness of another 
than by our own fears. You may be certain, 


whatever the consummate duplicity of that oath- 
taker may invent, whatever the capricious tyranny 
of our persecutor may threaten us with, yet, by 
God's mercy, neither death nor life, nor angels, 
nor any other creature shall separate us from the 
love of God, which has caused us this present 
tribulation. Neither shall his lordship of Pavia, 
until this iniquity is complete, and this load upon 
us removed. At such concurrence of events 
some traces of liberty may begin to show them- 
selves, and the same zeal, by which it was con- 
sidered to be almost destroyed, shall thus be the 
means of its rising again more vigorous than 
before. Do you not know that the largest trees, 
which have required years to grow, are cut down 
in one hour? It is foolish to look for their fruits, 
and yet to be unprepared for their fall. Let it 
be your consolation then, that God's enemies, 
however honourable and exalted they may have 
been, shall nevertheless fade away like the smoke. 
Listen awhile to the whisper of the breeze, in 
which the Lord speaks : yet a little while, and 
the sinner shall not be : his place shall be sought 
and shall not be found. But enough of this. 

" If those whom we excommunicated are to 
receive absolution, or are already absolved, it is 
the same thing : it is admitted that they are 
excommunicated. It follows, therefore, that those 
who communicated with them have incurred the 


taint of excommunication. Let them look to 
the consequences. 

" John of Oxford did not receive all these 
benefits from the pope for nothing. It is some 
consolation to us, as we have learnt for certain 
from those who are on their return from the 
court, that in the king's name he renounced 
the royal constitutions, which his majesty was 
so eager to get confirmed. We wish the king 
to learn this through you, and your countrymen, 
but not as coming from me. Do not, however, 
let it be reported as resting on your own autho- 
rity. Thus, that garrulous fellow will be con- 
founded in his presumption, and be hurled from 
the pinnacle of his glory. Be not out of spirits : 
our release or the infliction of ecclesiastical seve- 
rity is much nearer at hand than falsehood can in- 
vent or pride take for granted. Give my good 
wishes to our good Nicolas. Wait the end with 
joy, it is the end which characterizes every thing, 
and which tests a man's expectations. God bless 
you again and for ever." 



" So great a load of superior authority weighs 
me down at present, my lord, that I know not what 
to do, and am compelled to apply to your high- 

1166.] TO KING HENRY. 47 

ness for advice and assistance. An appeal does 
not nullify the mandates of the apostolic pontiff: 
I must obey them or be guilty of the sin of dis- 

" Now as I was standing before the altar at 
London, on St. Paul's day, [Jan. 25 3 ,] a stranger 
put into my hands a letter from my lord the 
pope, wherein it was notified that his holiness 
granted to the archbishop of Canterbury the 
legatine commission over all England, save the 
province of York : also that I and the other 
bishops should obey him as legate, and humbly 
present ourselves at his bidding to answer on 
all matters concerning our dioceses, and receive 
his orders ; also that all, who have by your autho- 
rity occupied benefices belonging to the arch- 
bishop's clergy, shall restore them within two 
months, under pain of excommunication without 
appeal ; also that I shall collect Peter's pence 
from my brethren, the other bishops, and forward 
it in full by the messengers sent for that purpose ; 
also that if I wish to retain my station and sacer- 
dotal order unharmed, I must forward to all the 
other bishops the pope's commission as contained 
in the above letter. 

" Seeing this, we throw ourselves at the feet 

3 This letter properly belongs to the beginning of the year 
1167, but is added here because it has reference to others con- 
tained in this chapter. 


of your highness, and entreat your royal con- 
sideration to save us from being reduced to 
nothing, whilst we are occupied in the business 
of your kingdom. We pray you to permit our 
obedience to the pope's mandate, by sending 
Peter's pence, restoring the benefices, and in- 
structing the bishops, if they find anything against 
the customs of the kingdom in the archbishop's 
letters, to appeal at once to our lord the pope 
or to his legates who are coming to your court. 
By consenting to this, you will both save me 
from disobedience, and advance your highness's 
own cause through our appeal. 

" May God lead you to do his will, and to 
relieve us from the anguish which we are suf- 
fering. Farewell." 


YEAR 1167. 

WITHIN a few days after the exiles had removed 
from Pontigny to Sens, the ambassadors whom the 
archbishop had sent to meet the appeal, returned 
from the papal court with the intelligence that 
the king of England's intrigues, carried on by 

1166.] THE POPE'S LETTER. 49 

John of Oxford and his colleagues, had been 
successful, and that the pope was on the point 
of despatching two legates a latere one of whom 
was known to favour the king's side, to enquire 
into the points at issue between the parties. 
This commission was notified to Becket in the 
following letter. 



" THAT we do not oftener visit you with our 
letters, my brother, proceeds from this circum- 
stance, that we communicate with you through 
your envoys, to whom we impart matters that 
we do not choose to commit to writing. We 
now wish to notify to your discretion, that in 
our desire to make peace, we have dispatched 
our beloved sons, William, cardinal of St. Peter's, 
and Otto, of St. Nicolas, to our dear son in 
Christ, Henry, King of England, to discharge 
the legatine office in his territories on this side 
of the water ; and especially to endeavour to 
effect a reconciliation between you and the afore- 
said king. Wherefore, as we value your peace 
and that of the Church, and wish only to pro- 
vide for the interests of the Church at large, 
we ask of you and enjoin you by apostolical autho- 



rity, to consider how much the church committed 
to your care requires your presence and super- 
intendence, and strive to your utmost that peace 
may be re-established between you and the king, 
consistently with your own honour and the credit 
of the Church. And if every thing does not turn 
out to your wishes, yet bear with it for the pre- 
sent, that at a future time you may be enabled, 
with God's assistance, to restore things to their 
former state. And do not take occasion from 
what we have intimated to our dearest son in 
Christ, the king of France, .to throw any impe- 
diment in the way of peace, so long as you can 
preserve your honour therein, as we before said, 
and the credit of the Church. For you will 
have abundant opportunity hereafter, if you use 
discretion, to abolish many things, which, if now 
mentioned, would be at once invested with im- 
portance. You may confide in the cardinals 
above-named without reserve, and without doubt- 
ing in the good will of William of Pavia ; for 
we have strictly commanded him to do all he 
can to make your peace, and he has given us 
his promise thereon, so that we can in no wise 
doubt his word. For the rest, we request and 
advise you, my brother, to apply to the illustrious 
count of Flanders on our behalf, and admonish 
him, in consideration of the Church's necessities 
and our own, that he cannot confer more ac- 


ceptable alms than by giving us his worthy as- 
sistance at present, to defend the liberties of the 

This letter was followed by others, dated Dec. 1, 
addressed to the king and the bishops of England, 
notifying to them the same fact, with which, 
however, they were previously acquainted, for 
the nomination of legates so favourable to the 
royal party had been effected by the intrigues of 
his ambassadors at the papal court. One of the 
legates, William of Pavia, was decidedly favour- 
able to the king : the other, Otto of St. Nicolas, 
when half way on his journey towards Sens, ad- 
dressed to Becket the following letter, which 
does not speak very favourably of the vicissitudes 
to which travellers in those days were exposed, 
nor of the respect which was paid to the highest 
dignities of the Church. 



" THIS is to inform you, my dear brother, that 
in pursuance to our lord the pope's mandate, we 
set out upon our journey, and after travelling 
through places beset with snares and dangers, 
we arrived, by God's mercy, at Venice : our ene- 
mies lay in wait for us on every side, but thank 

E 2 


God, the snare was broken and we were delivered. 
From Venice we travelled no longer by stealth, 
but openly, amid the joy and congratulation of 
our friends, through Mantua, Verona, our own 
native town Brescia, Pergamos, Milan, near 
Novara, Vercelles, near Turin, thence to St. 
Michael's de Clusa, and so on through Provence 
to St. Giles's and Monte Pessulano, where we 
arrived safe and unharmed. When your friend, 
my lord W., comes, whom our lord the pope has 
sent, we shall again move forward : meanwhile 
we send on the bearer, to whom you may speak 
without reserve, as to our own self, and entrust 
to his keeping any message that you wish to send 
back to us. Farewell." 

The archbishop's messengers not only brought 
intelligence that the legates were on their way, 
but that whilst their commission lasted, the arch- 
bishop was forbidden to put in force the powers 
of the Church, or to launch its thunders against 
the offending king and bishops. 

" Thus," says Herbert de Bosham 4 , whose nar- 
rative we now follow, " we remained many days, 
awaiting the arrival of the cardinals. At length 
they arrived, and paid us the first visit at Sens, 
which lay on their way to the king. They ex- 
plained to us the cause of their coming, namely 
4 Book iv. chap. 22. 


to make peace between us and the king, to the 
honour of God, and saving the liberties of the 
Church. This intimation gave us satisfaction, and 
the legates continued their journey to the court 
of king Henry, which was at that time held in 
Normandy. Here they remained some time 
without returning to us, or giving us any infor- 
mation of their proceedings. For the king, as 
was reported, and as the event proved, sought 
only to protract the time ; and though he pre- 
tended that he was anxious to effect a reconci- 
liation, the cardinals had repeated audiences, but 
in vain. At last, that they might not appear to 
have come altogether on a fruitless errand, they 
summoned us to a conference at a place on the 
borders of France and Normandy, between the 
town of Trie and Gisors." 

The night before the interview took place, if 
we may believe the account of the same rambling, 
but apparently honest biographer 5 , the archbishop 
had a remarkable dream, " as he told his com- 
panions the next day on their way to the place 
of meeting : it seemed to him in his sleep that 
some one offered him poison in a golden cup." 
The material and intellectual worlds are so 
united, yet nevertheless so ill-defined, that the 
whole subject is one which presents the great- 

6 Herbert de Boshatn, iv. 22. 


est difficulties to him who enters on the inquiry. 
That the events of the preceding day often leave 
traces on the memory which develope themselves 
in the most fantastic forms during the ensuing 
night, is a fact too well established to be refuted. 
The impression thus produced on the mind some- 
times extends to an apparently prophetic view 
of the future, arising no doubt from the innate 
tendency of the reason to continue if possible 
always in action, and to draw conclusions which 
previous known facts will warrant. This may 
have exemplified itself in the case of Becket, 
who, on more than one occasion, is said by his 
biographers to have related dreams which may 
no doubt have been produced by the stirring 
and vital scenes amid which the last years of 
his life were passed. " The dream was veri- 
fied," says Herbert de Bosham, " for one of the 
cardinals, the above-named William of Pavia, 
was a man of elegant speech, and smooth and 
persuasive words : what he said appeared at first 
sight to be dictated by a love of peace ; but when 
examined minutely, was fraught with danger to 
the liberties of the Church. When we thought 
of the archbishop's dream, we recognized its ac- 
complishment in the address and manner of the 
cardinals ; wherefore we suspected what they 
said, and feared to be caught by their words, 
which were smooth and honeyed, yet at the same 


time sharp as arrows. To sum up all in few 
words, it was their endeavour to persuade us in 
our terms with the king, to make no mention 
of the constitutions, which had been reduced to 
writing, and that the archbishop should thus be 
allowed to return to his Church, without al- 
luding to a subject which would infallibly stand 
in the way of a friendly accommodation. ' For,' 
they added, * it would be a dishonour to the 
king to be compelled to renounce in words what 
had been sanctioned by all his barons and pre- 
lates, and recognized as belonging to the crown. 
Now, if the king grants you peace without men- 
tioning these constitutions, they are thereby 
understood to be abolished by implication, and 
as this is the sole cause of the present disagree- 
ment, you will in reality have gained your cause ; 
for the king will tacitly have withdrawn the 
obnoxious constitutions. Of this we have a pre- 
cedent in the case of a bishop who bestows holy 
orders on a clerk : he does not mention the obli- 
gation of celibacy, yet the clerk is bound to 
observe it.' To this they added other instances 
of consent being implied when nothing was ac- 
tually said on the subject. 

" We, however, in reply urged, that the con- 
stitutions, which had actually been reduced to 
writing, should expressly be annulled : otherwise 


the peace would be hollow, and the liberties of 
the Church insecure, for the archbishop had been 
led by a stratagem to give his consent to them, 
which he would now seem to ratify, unless their 
abolition was expressly stated. It was not a 
simple case in which silence would give consent, 
for consent had already once been given, though 
fraudulently obtained, and silence would now 
seem to confirm it. To this were added the 
expressions of the canons, all of which showed 
that the constitutions would, without a doubt, 
be confirmed by us, if we did not insist upon 
their actual and express withdrawal. We next 
spoke of the property, real and personal, which 
had been taken away from our Church and clerks, 
and of which we claimed restitution. In fine," 
continues Herbert, " we shaped our proposition 
in this way, because we had been warned before- 
hand by some friends whom we had at the king's 
court, and we determined not to relax our de- 
mands, for we knew that the cardinals had on 
their part urged us to accept terms which they 
knew the king would never have been prevailed 
upon to accede to. One of the cardinals openly 
espoused the king's side, and their wish was to 
make it appear that we and not his majesty had 
rejected the proposed terms, and that their own 
mission had not been altogether fruitless. Thus, 


when they found that they could do nothing 
with us, they left us, and returned to the king's 
court, whilst we hastened back to Sens." 

This useless negotiation occupied ten months 
of the year 1167 : the appeal of the bishops 
made in June of the preceding year had already 
long ago expired : the king's party looked, there- 
fore, with some anxiety to the movements of the 
cardinals, for when it should be publicly and 
clearly known that they had failed in their mis- 
sion, the authority of the metropolitan over his 
suffragans, which the pope had temporarily sus- 
pended, would return in all its force, and their 
experience led them to anticipate that the pre- 
sent possessor of that authority would exercise 
it with no gentle hand. 

In this state of things the bishops called on 
the cardinals to pronounce sentence in the cause 
which they had been hearing, for that it was the 
contumacy of the archbishop and not of them- 
selves, which stood in the way of peaceable ar- 
rangement. The dismay both of the king and 
the suffragans, when they heard that the cardinals 
were not invested with full power to act, may 
be better imagined than described. The former 
treated the cardinals with rudeness : the latter 
held a hasty meeting, and again, in presence of 
the legates, renewed their appeal to the pope, 
fixing, as the term of its being heard, the octave 


of St. Martin, in the ensuing year 1168, and 
thus adding another tedious year to the arch- 
bishop's tedious exile. The events thus briefly 
enumerated form the principal subjects of the 
following letters, written in the course of the 
year 1167, and during the continuance of the 
first legatine commission. 





" AMONG other marks of your magnificence and 
devotion, we are most sensible of the honourable 
reception and ample presents which you have 
given to our venerable brother Thomas, arch- 
bishop of Canterbury, whose character for religion, 
discretion, and uprightness, has endeared him 
both to us and to the Church. For these things 
we thank your highness from our heart, and com- 
mend your clemency to the Lord, to whom, in 

11 67-] LOUIS, KING OF FRANCE. 59 

the person of the archbishop, you have rendered 
these services, and He will, we believe, requite 
you for them as much as if they had been done 
to our own person. And whereas we are most 
anxious to make peace for the same archbishop, 
we have thought fit to send our beloved sons, 
William, cardinal of St. Peter's ad Vincula, and 
Otto, cardinal deacon of St. Nicolas's, to the court 
of our dearest son in Christ, Henry, king of 
England, to make peace between the king and 
the archbishop, and to hear all causes that may 
arise in the king's dominions on this side of the 
water, and to discharge there the legatine com- 
mission of the apostolic see. Wherefore we exhort 
your highness, by these our apostolical letters, for 
the honour of the Church of God and of St. Peter, 
and of ourself, to interpose your good offices with 
the aforesaid king, that the two parties may be 
brought together, and make peace with one an- 
other, without dishonour to the archbishop himself, 
or the Church. If by the agency of the afore- 
said cardinals, and your intervention, peace can be 
re-established, the Church, which, next to God, 
depends on you for support, will derive thence no 
small advantage, and you will obtain due reward 
from Almighty God. But if, which God forbid ! 
they cannot be reconciled, it would please us 
much, with your royal approbation and consent, 
and if it could be done without offence to the 


clergy of your kingdom, to confer an especial 
honour on the archbishop, and make him our re- 
presentative in those parts. Wherefore we entreat 
your highness, if they cannot make peace con- 
sistently with the Church's honour, which would 
be our first wish, to communicate to us your 
wishes as speedily as possible, and in the mean- 
time to keep this letter as secret as possible." 



" You may imagine from what I am going to 
relate to you, what universal ridicule has fallen on 
myself, and obloquy on the pope and cardinals. 
If we have any friends at court, make them ac- 
quainted with these facts. John of Oxford, and 
the other ambassadors of the king, are returned 
from the court, exalting themselves above all that 
is called God, or is worshipped ; and boasting that 
they, have obtained all their desire ; viz. that the 
king is exempted in regard to excommunication 
from all episcopal authority, except that of his 
lordship the pope ; and that he is to have the 
legate he asked for, William of Pavia. This 
our more than declared enemy is to come with 
full powers over the king's whole territory, to 
plant and to build, and especially to root up and 
overthrow, without appeal ; and, above all, to 

1167.] JOHN, HIS ENVOY. 01 

decide the principal cause between ourself and 
the king, and all its incidents which may give 
rise to exception in time to come. 

" With this pomp and boast is John of Oxford 
returned to England. On his landing he found 
our brother, the Bishop of Hereford, waiting for 
a wind to cross the water, and in concealment ; 
for the king's officers would have prevented his 
crossing openly. On finding him, he forbade him 
to proceed, first in the name of the king, and 
then of his holiness the pope. The bishop then 
inquired, as I am assured by his messenger, who 
came afterwards to excuse his lordship's non- 
appearance, 'whether he had any letters to that 
effect ?' He asserted that he had, and that the 
pope forbade him and the other bishops as well, 
either to attend our summons, or obey us in any 
thing, till the arrival of the pope's legate a latere, 
who had been obtained by the king, and was 
coming with full powers to determine the matter 
on which they had appealed, and the principal 
cause and all its incidents. The bishop insisted 
on seeing the letters, but he said he had sent them 
on with his baggage to Winchester, about twelve 
miles from Southampton. On considering the 
matter, the bishop sent back his clerk to Win- 
chester, M. Edward, in whose veracity I confide, 
and he saw the letters, in company with the 
bishop of London, who was likewise waiting to 


cross the water. When the bishop of London 
saw them, he said aloud, as if unable to restrain 
himself, 'Then, master Thomas, you shall never 
be archbishop more.' 

" John of Oxford added, that his own person 
was privileged, so that we had no power to ex- 
communicate him, or even rebuke him, except in 
the pope's presence; and that he might present 
the deanery of Salisbury to any one he pleased ; 
and that our authority was in all points curtailed 
till the legate's arrival. 

" Of all this the bishop informed me, through 
bis chaplain, a canon regular, a holy man, whom 
he has sent to excuse his neglect of our summons. 
For we had summoned him once and again, and a 
third time, with a peremptory mandate to appear 
in our presence before the Purification, as a man 
of weight, and in the king's confidence, to assist 
in effecting peace, if possible, between the king 
and ourself. All this the canon was ready to 
swear that he had heard from the bishop, and 
that he was commissioned on his part to inform 
me of it. 

" If this is true, then, without doubt, his lord- 
ship the pope has suffocated and strangled, not 
only our own person, but himself and every eccle- 
siastic of both kingdoms; yea, both churches 
together, the Gallican and the English. For what 
will not the kings of the earth dare against the 

1167.] JOHN, HIS ENVOY. 63 

clergy, under cover of this most wretched pre- 
cedent ? And on what can the Church of Rome 
rely, when it thus deserts and leaves destitute the 
persons who are making a stand in its cause, and 
contending for it even unto death ? And what if 
any thing should befal his holiness the pope, 
while the king and others are in possession of 
these privileges and exemptions? They will be 
transmitted to posterity, from whose hands none 
will be able to wrest them. Nay more, let the 
Church say yea or nay, other princes will extort 
like privileges and exemptions for themselves, till 
in the end the liberty of the Church perishes, and 
with it the power and jurisdiction of the bishops. 
For none will be at hand to coerce the wicked- 
ness of tyrants, whose whole efforts are at this day 
concentrated against God's church and ministers. 
Nor will they desist till these are reduced to like 
servitude with the rest. 

" However, the result is as yet unseen : what 
we do see is, that, whether the above assertions 
are true or false, we at any rate are troubled above 
measure. No obedience or respect is now shown 
us in any thing, either by the bishops or abbots, or 
any of the clergy, as if our deposition was now a 
settled thing. 

" Of one thing, however, let his lordship the 
pope assure himself, no consideration shall in- 
duce us to enter the king's territories as a litigant, 


nor to accept our enemies as our judges, especially 
him of Pavia, who thirsts for our blood that he 
may fill our place : which, as we understand, is 
promised him in case he rids the king of us. 

" There is another thing that grieves us. The 
great men of France, nobles, bishops, and other 
dignitaries, as if despairing of our cause, have 
sent back our unhappy co-exiles whom their 
charity hath sustained ; and these must perish of 
cold and hunger, as some indeed have perished 

" Be careful to impress all this on his lordship 
the pope ; that if, as we even yet hope, some zeal 
for God remains with him, he may take steps to 
relieve us. 

" Farewell, and send back some messenger in 
all haste, to inform us about those matters. If 
what is stated proves true, we are indeed in a 



" WE hereby send to your highness the bearer of 
this letter, who for his station in life is very in- 
timate with us, and for his great talent, a man 
of fidelity and capacity. We pray your mercy 
to hear him in our behalf, for our miserable con- 
dition is become wearisome, perhaps even loath- 

1167.] TO THE POPE. 65 

some to our friends, and as some tell us they ima- 
gine by your silence, a subject for contempt with 
your holiness. Even our enemies cannot but look 
upon us with compassion. Rise, my lord, I pray 
you, and make no longer tarrying: let the light 
of your countenance shine upon us : save us and 
our wretched companions in exile, for we are 
perishing. Let us not be put to shame among 
men : our adversaries insult us and Christ's 
Church; let us not be brought to contempt among 
the people, when we have invoked you by name, 
holy father, to watch over us. Not by us, my 
lord, not by us, but by the name of the Lord 
Jesus, earn for yourself a name for ever, and 
restore your endangered reputation ; depressed 
as it is in France by the return of that ex- 
communicated and false schismatic John of Ox- 
ford, and the vaunts which he has promulgated. 
God knows that I am speaking the truth : if 
you do not believe me, ask those in France, who 
are most zealous of your honour, and most de- 
sirous to promote the advantage of the Church. 
Your reputation, I say, is at stake; your reputa- 
tion which has hitherto passed without spot or 
blemish among mankind, and been preserved 
harmless through all dangers, when every thing 
else has been polluted. Let your authority re- 
sume its force, and go forth, my father, so that 
that prate-apace may be confounded, and may 
VOL. n. F 


acknowledge that he has spread what is false, 
promulgating lies. Let him feel your severity, 
for he has cut off all hope of forgiveness ; let 
him feel your vengeance, for he has abused your 
kindness : let the world be told that he has 
found Christ's vicar founded on a rock not easy 
to be moved, that he is not a reed as the ma- 
lignants whisper, but the upholder of equity and 
justice ; not an accepter of persons, nor a favourer 
of either party in his judgment, but a dispenser of 
justice equally to the king and to the peasant. God 
bless your holiness, that it may be well with us 
and our wretched companions in exile." 




" BETWEEN the uprightness of my conscience and 
the hardness of my lot, I know not how either 
to show respect to my feelings or to the times. 
The bitterness of my mind urges me at all hazards 
to speak what I think, whereas the necessity of 
the times prompts me, however unbecomingly, 
to keep silence. Good God ! which way shall 
I turn myself ? There is danger on every side : 
I am not strong enough to speak without danger : 


for I faint to speak with risk to the Church, yet 
silence involves both her and me in one common 
ruin. That I may not perish in the Church's 
downfall, I speak sorrowing on a matter that too 
much calls for sorrow. The glorious city is cap- 
tured, that city which subdued the world is 
subverted and sunk before the love of human 
favour ; and that which could not be slain with 
the sword, has been cut off by the poisons of 
these western regions. With shame be it spoken : 
by her fall the Church's liberties have been sacri- 
ficed for the sake of temporal advantages. The 
road to her ruin lay through the sinuous paths 
of riches : she has been prostituted in the streets 
to princes, she has conceived iniquity, and will 
bring forth oppression to the undeserving. Woe 
is to us ! what shall we do ? the authority of 
the city is failing, and how shall our own necks 
escape from being bent ? Her children are shut 
out and step-sons are admitted, so that strangers 
enjoy the mother's inheritance, with which her 
true heirs should have been nourished. She that 
ought to have cherished in her bosom the op- 
pressed, and to have administered comfort to the 
sick, now contributes to the exaltation of the 
oppressor, and keeps down his victims under a 
load that crushes them. What safety can we 
hope for the future, if those who perversely re- 
fuse satisfaction are absolved instead of having 

F 2 


their sentence confirmed as it ought to be; if they 
are allowed to triumph at being forgiven, instead 
of feeling the vengeance which is their due ; if 
they bring back favour and indulgence, instead 
of the punishment which they were conscious of 
having deserved ? Would that I had not been 
reserved to see the sufferings of my people and 
of the saints, unless it be that, as the Scriptures 
say, it is necessary for many righteous to suffer 
for righteousness' sake. It would be some con- 
solation to us if this bitterness of the tree were 
compensated by the sweetness of the fruit : for 
disagreeable beginnings often lead to a plea- 
sant termination. This is often indeed the case, 
but with me it is not so ; for that nothing may 
be wanting to complete our crown of suffer- 
ing, every thing seems to turn out adverse, and 
the evil which we experience in the outset ap- 
pears to lead most untowardly to more bitter 
sufferings, that are still to come. We are severed 
from the bosom of our Church and mother, and 
the mercies of our Father are closed up against 
us; he that hath no desert has pillaged the de- 
serving ; the man of evil conscience hath taken 
that which belonged to the innocent ; the slow 
hath won the race from the rapid, and he that 
deserved punishment hath carried off the crown. 
What have I done that I should thus suffer ? 
If I have shown devotion and faith beyond what 


men expected of me, and beyond the wishes of 
my friends, if I have left every thing, and with 
my wretched fellows followed my father and 
my lord, exposing myself to every sort of danger ; 
is this the reward of my discomfiture, these the 
amends for what I have lost ; this the fruit of the 
tree which is to atone for its bitterness of root ? 
Will not the populace cry out upon this iniquitous 
retribution ? Let God look to this, let Him judge 
my cause, whether this be justice. A strange 
thing indeed this is, contrary to all law, and 
destroying the authority of justice and equity. 
The rashness of the persecutor hath overspread 
the rights of the persecuted : so that punishment 
is awarded to him that has gained the victory, 
the inglorious triumphs, and the man who de- 
served bonds has carried off the prize. This 
legatine commission, which I would had never 
been thought of, is the cause of all these evils: 
it was got up for the ruin of all of us who are 
in exile, and will bring detriment upon the whole 
Church. But they may strain till they burst 
themselves, they shall never, by Christ's grace, 
make me deviate from the path of justice or from 
the great cause of liberating the Church, or from 
the duties of my station, which is the love of 
God, whose will it is that I should suffer tribu- 
lation until the just Judge shall come, who will 
weigh both sides in his even-handed balance, and 


will dispense to all, young and old, king or pri- 
vate man, according to his deserts. To Him I 
look as my judge ; to Him, as the avenger of 
my wrongs ; firm in my own good conscience, 
and secure in the sincerity of my devotion, rooted 
in faith, and confident that those who in the 
love of justice suffer injury can never be con- 
founded : nor those who break the horns of the 
persecutors of the Church be deprived of their 
everlasting reward. I write thus to you who are 
the half of my own soul, that you may see the 
anguish of your friend, that you may dispel his 
sorrows, and relieve him from his burdens. For 
there is no grief like to my grief. For I am 
talked of as betrayed into the hands of enemies, 
given up to the will of the envious, torn by the 
teeth of the malignants, and consigned to de- 
struction at the sentence of one of those who 
persecute me. It is a cruel thing a hateful 
and horrible thing, and its very iniquity deserves 
the censure of posterity for ever. Those men 
of Pavia should have been content with ruining 
Italy, without destroying the whole world and 
the liberties of the Church by their officious- 
ness. I should have much more to say to you, 
had I not been worn out by the wrongs and 
indignities that are done me. I dread to disturb 
your peace of mind by a relation of my sufferings : 
it would only augment your cares and vex you ; 


whereas I require all your equanimity that you 
may save me from ruin. 

" Peace then to him who is the sounder half 
of myself, that the diseased half may become 
sound also. Haste thee to help me, lest I perish 
utterly; and receive for recompense glory on 
earth, an everlasting crown in heaven. Farewell 
again, and again farewell, and repose the greatest 
confidence in the bearer, as well as others who, 
ere long, will be sent to you, by God's mercy, in 
my behalf." 



" IT is not unknown to your discretion, with what 
zeal and fidelity, with what devotion and ready 
service the Church of Canterbury has ever done 
the will of the Roman see, untempted by the 
smiles of prosperity, unalarmed by the storms 
of evil fortune. She once rejoiced to have you 
for her protector, in the times of my predecessor ; 
from you she derived counsel and comfort, and 
assistance in the hour of her necessity. All her 
devotion was to you-ward, and she deemed it a 
triumph and element of success if an opportunity 
occurred for her to render you a service, or if her 


exertions could in any way benefit you. And we 
also, who by God's grace are her unworthy mi- 
nister, have often, as we well remember, done 
our best to serve you and to gain your good will. 
Would to God that you had remembered it also ! 
But as you seem to be more forgetful in this 
matter than is expedient to us in our necessities, 
we beg of you to listen to what our brother shall 
tell you, for he is worthy of credit, regarding our 
devotion towards you. If we have not served 
you in person since our promotion to the epis- 
copal station, it is not for want of the will but 
of the opportunity. We still had hopes ; for our 
services were not at an end, they were only put 
off to a future time. We had intended to pay 
the debt of friendship largely to our friend and 
lord, with interest for the whole time that it had 
been delayed. We wonder, therefore, beyond 
measure who can have weaned away your affec- 
tions and your patronage from the Church of 
Canterbury ; particularly in God's cause, the loss 
of which would endanger the liberty of the whole 
English Church, and the authority of the Roman 
see in England, and would leave every thing to 
be done at the king's caprice. If we had con- 
sented in the beginning to the constitutions, as 
he requested of us, we should not now have 
wanted your help, or that of any other person 


to protect us. Look to it then, whether the 
wiles of that oath-taker 6 , which have so signally 
been detected, should have led you so soon to 
abandon your friend, and to despise the services 
of the Church of Canterbury. She for her part, 
although rejected, will never abandon you, nor 
will we ever, so please you, desist from our de- 
votedness towards you, but when the accepted 
time shall come, will study by all means to pro- 
mote your honour. Confiding in this determi- 
nation, and having the testimony of a good 
conscience, we earnestly pray you not to reject 
the Church of Canterbury which offers herself 
to you : not to desert God's cause, which is un- 
doubtedly in your hands, lest God also desert 
you, and judge you in the same way that you 
have judged. Let the Church of Canterbury ex- 
perience the fidelity of her ancient friend ; for 
he that abandons a friend in ill-fortune is a lover 
not of the man, but of his prosperity. We warn 
you as our faithful friend and lord, that it will 
profit you less to cultivate the friendship of that 
base oath-taker than it will injure you to cast off 
the allegiance of the Church of Canterbury ; and 
he has but the spirit of a slave who is brought to 
reason only by chastisement." 

6 John of Oxford. 




" To be wise and eschew evil, 
To obey God rather than man. 

"THOUGH your aim has been all along to effect 
the downfall of the Church and of ourself, thereby 
excluding you from communion with the faithful, 
and from the benefit of salutation ; yet in regard 
for your salvation, which, as God knows, we ear- 
nestly wish for, and considering that though 
Christ came to call not the righteous, but sinners 
to repentance, yet He rejects a feigned repent- 
ance, and judges of its sincerity by our deeds ; 
considering also that the tree is known by its 
fruits ; we, therefore, for your disobedience and 
contumacy, to say nothing of the rest of your 
conduct, can no longer pass you over with im- 
punity, though in charity we shall rejoice if even 
now you will repent and produce fruits worthy 
of repentance : we shall then no longer bear in 
mind the things which you have done to our 
prejudice, if your repentance is sincere, and your 
actions in uniformity therewith. We invite you 
to this with fatherly solicitude, we exhort you to 
look thoughtfully unto your ways, to deeds worthy 
of a bishop, that we may not be obliged, in admi- 
nistering punishment, to have recourse to severe 


measures. We command you, therefore, by virtue 
of your obedience, in peril of your orders and 
rank, to send back to us our lord the pope's 
letters concerning our legateship, which we sent 
to you that you might show them to our brother 

" If you have so shown them, it is well ; but if 
not, know for a certainty that you will have to 
answer for having suppressed them. May God's 
mercy inspire into you a penitent heart. If you 
are wise in time, and hasten to make atonement, 
God will spare you, and speedily convert you." 



" THE affliction of my lord of Salisbury, however 
just may have been its cause, gives me annoy- 
ance, and the more so, because I do not clearly 
see the issue of this crisis. What entreaties I 
have used with his lordship of Canterbury to 
relax the sentence, is known to Him who is the 
inspector and judge of the heart. But I failed, 
and I think it useless to detail to you the reasons 
of my failure, because your friend, master Gilbert, 
has heard them from the archbishop's own mouth. 
To say nothing of the rest, that which principally 
vexes the archbishop is, that his lordship of 


Salisbury has set an example of disobedience to 
others, and to this hour is aiding and abetting 
the bishop of London and his adherents, who 
are seeking the archbishop's life to take it away. 
He says, also, that Salisbury has written to him 
contumaciously, and sought to cloak his sin of 
disobedience under the pretext of a frivolous 
appeal. But he has not even yet repented of 
his presumption or renounced his appeal, but 
dissembling the injustice of it by a certain hesi- 
tation both in word and in action, throws impedi- 
ments in the way of his superior who would 
correct him, and yet, with a pretence of humility, 
sues for mercy. No one, therefore, can prevail 
on the archbishop to do more than this, to show 
fatherly mercy on the bishop, and treat him with 
benevolence for the future, if he will withdraw 
from the appeal, openly confess his offence, and 
remain henceforth in his obedience. For of the 
archbishop's kindness, if the bishop will only 
do what is necessary, I have not the slightest 
doubt. You know what the pope has lately writ- 
ten on the subject, and what remedy the dean has 
obtained in this cause from the apostolic see. 
If, however, his promises do not fail, but what 
he swore to is fulfilled, the archbishop and his 
clerks will make his peace in a very short time, 
and a truce will be proclaimed between the 
throne and the altar. Meanwhile, as you must 


have heard, we are forbidden by authority from 
telling what has been done at Rome. When 
the bargain comes to be ratified or broken, we 
shall be at liberty to tell all. But since his 
lordship of Salisbury and Reginald the archdea- 
con urge me in this matter, wishing me to write 
to them and tell them what I can discover, I 
beg of you to let the archdeacon have this 
letter which I send for him, and do your best to 
get him well through the business." 



" HE must be an inhuman and impious man, who 
is not grieved at the affliction of his father, 
particularly when so many and great marks of 
fatherly kindness have been shown, as clear as 
the daylight, towards the son. The Lord con- 
demned the Canaanites to perpetual slavery, be- 
cause their father Ham, from whom they derived 
their name and race, behaved inhumanly towards 
his parent; for an impious deed entails a taint 
upon the descendants of the doer. Thus the 
hateful yoke of slavery was a warning to all 
men against such impiety. 

" I should consider myself as worse than any of 
the Canaanites, if I did not sympathize with my 
suffering parent, and feel in my soul the stripes 


which he receives, even more severely than the 
sore of my own wounds. My conscience is the 
best witness of this fact, and God who searches 
the heart, and who, sooner than was believed, will 
bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and 
make manifest the counsels of the heart. We 
are now standing before his tribunal, and await 
his sentence in our cause, so that it is foolish 
and rash to lose by deviating from the truth 
the reward of all our labour, of all our life, if 
indeed our sufferings have been to our salvation, 
and our actions conformable to the rule of right. 
I have laboured hard with his lordship of Can- 
terbury, as he well knows, using language at 
one time palliative, at another time of rebuke : 
but all my arguments, I grieve to say, have 
failed. It would be tedious, and indeed unne- 
cessary, to state the objections which he makes 
to our arguments and entreaties, for master 
Gilbert, of whose fidelity to you I have no doubt, 
will hear all most fully from his own mouth. 
I call God to witness, and will answer for it 
with my life, that the archbishop sincerely loves 
the bishop, and desires that he should stand safe 
and unharmed. But he insists, that as he has 
given an example of disobedience to others, he 
shall now in his own person give an example 
of salutary and indispensable obedience. If the 
bishop will do this, for which he has the au- 


thority of Scripture, the advice of his friends, and 
the commands of the pope, he will find the 
archbishop, whom he, perhaps, fears unnecessarily, 
an affectionate father, and more prone to forgive 
than to punish. For you may well remember 
the rescript which the bishop of Constance lately 
received from the holy see, and of which in- 
formation was sent, or ought to have been sent 
to you. You know also what consolation your 
own dean brought back from thence. If you do 
not know, I wish every thing which he did at 
Rome, in other causes as well as this, had been 
made known, not only to you, but to all the world. 
Moreover, if it were lawful to publish such 
things, we could easily state what has been done 
in the matter of the constitutions, about which 
the quarrel began between the king and the 
priesthood, the reconciliation of the archbishop, 
the liberties of the Church, and the restoration 
of the exiles. I could also tell of the oath 
which has been taken, and the articles of agree- 
ment between the parties. At present we have 
orders not to speak of these things, as long as 
there is hope that the parties will be as good as 
their word. But there is nothing hidden which 
shall not be made known, and that soon too by 
God's good pleasure. For the hour is at hand, 
when those who are detected in perjury shall be 
destroyed ; the time of visitation and of vengeance 


is approaching. Meanwhile, if my advice is asked, 
I answer before God, whom I invoke to witness 
the truth of my words on the last day, I answer 
freely and fully, and with that faith which is due 
to my father ; first, that we should study to fol- 
low the precepts of the divine law ; but if that 
is silent, let us turn to the canons and precedents 
of the saints of old, and if there we find nothing 
to the point, we must explore the writings and 
receive the counsel of those who are wise in the 
fear of the Lord, and especially of those, whether 
few or many, who prefer God's honour to every 
thing besides. For no one can walk safely, if 
he neglects the law of God, that unerring rule, 
which all should follow." 



" IT cannot, we think, have escaped your memory, 
that last year we summoned you by messenger 
and letters to appear before us, but you disobeyed 
our mandate, and have not yet come. Be as- 
sured that we have for many reasons treated you 
with much deference, and spared you as our 
beloved son, not only because we know you to 
be devotedly faithful to your mother of Canter- 
bury, but also for the nobility of your birth, 


and for the esteem which we feel towards you. 
We therefore repeat our command, and enjoin 
on you, in peril of your orders and by virtue 
of your obedience, that from the moment of your 
landing on this side of the sea, you do not fail 
to appear before us, that we may take counsel 
together, for I have much to say to you. For 
the rest, as touching the point at issue between 
you and the archbishop of York and the ex- 
communicates of St. Oswald's and the rest of that 
province, we command you to be influenced by 
no entreaty or consideration, nor let any threats 
of either king or cardinals induce you to absolve 
them, or take any other measures in their behalf 
without our cognizance and consent." 



" ALTHOUGH from the altered character of the 
times, and a wish not to increase the schism 
in the holy Roman Church, we may seem to 
some to have been engaged in various ways to 
your disadvantage, yet God, who is the inspector 
of hearts, is my witness that I have ever cherished 
in my breast the same regard towards you. But 
as we have often before intimated to you, we 



have studied, as far as in us lay, how we might 
avoid incurring the suspicion of the king of Eng- 
land, that so we might at length, by friendly 
intervention, preserve peace between him and 
you, and retain the devotion of so great a prince 
to the holy Roman Church. At present we are 
deputed, together with our revered brother Otho, 
cardinal-deacon, to go down into his dominions, 
and terminate the quarrel which lies between 
you and the aforesaid king, as shall seem to us 
most expedient to the cause of God's Church. 
Wherefore we exhort you, and earnestly intreat 
you, to avoid, as far as you are able, all subjects 
which may generate further strife between you, 
and hold fast to every means that may offer 
of promoting peace. For by God's grace, we 
will be no accepters of persons, but will en- 
deavour to forward the establishment of peace 
and your own happiness, and with God's assist- 
ance, time will show that this has been our only 
study. Farewell." 



" WE have lately received your highness's letter, 
wherein we are made to drink wormwood, ill 
concealed by the honey of its beginning, or the 
oil of its conclusion. You tell me that you have 


come down to these parts to decide the questions 
which lie between our lord the king and us, as 
shall seem to you most expedient. We do not 
believe that you are come for this, nor do we 
admit your intervention, for many reasons, which 
at a fitting time and place we will state. If, 
however, any good or chance of peace shall be 
brought about by your means, I thank God and 
you for it. May it be well with your highness, 
that so it may be well with us also." 




" THANKS to your excellency's kindness for the 
letter with which you have at last deigned to 
visit our insignificance. That insignificance de- 
rives its character in the minds of many from 
our present condition, not from the past ; and 
may be changed, if God pleases, into a much 
more bright and prosperous future. You say 
that whereas many think you have been engaged 
in various ways to our disadvantage, this has 
proceeded from your wish not to incur the sus- 
picion of the king, or to cause him to become 

7 Probably this letter and the last were not both sent. 

G 2 


less zealous towards the Church and less disposed 
to make peace with us. God knows whether 
this is true, and the event will show. But whereas 
you say that you are come down into these parts 
to judge between us, as may seem to you best 
for the Church ; this certainly is not impossible. 
We believe, however, that we know well what 
you are come for, and what we have to suspect 
at your hands. We wish to exhort your discre- 
tion in the Lord, to conduct yourself in this 
business to the honour of God, the re-establish- 
ment of the Church, and your own credit among 
the people. If any good or chance of peace 
shall result by your means, we thank God and 
you for it. We earnestly hope that you will 
consider what burdens the English Church and 
we have endured and are still enduring, and how 
the same suffering extends from us to the Church 
at large. The eyes of all men are directed to 
this matter, and they are waiting to see the end, 
in what way the pride of kings will plume itself 
in triumph, or bear up under defeat. We pray 
God that it may suffer defeat, and not gain a 
victory by your intervention. Farewell, farewell 
to you, that it may be well with us also and the 




" THE more we confide in your affection and 
sincerity,, .the more confidently do we recur to 
you as our friend and last resource in the pressing 
emergencies of our Church. Trusting in you, 
therefore, as an especial friend, we beg to remind 
you, how you vouchsafed to receive us and our 
Church, or rather your Church, under your pro- 
tection, that Church, whose rights and privileges 
we must now defend from violation, as both you 
and I must now make manifest by our deeds. For 
deeds are the tests of man's affections. We there- 
fore earnestly entreat you to use all your zeal, 
and all your prudence, to preserve the dignities, 
rights, and liberties of our Church intact and 
inviolate. But enough on this subject. We send 
you, my lord, letters from his lordship of Pavia, 
which he has sent us to announce his coming. 
They are not altogether destitute of vanity and 
pomposity : you can read them, and you will find 
that they contain no little boasting. We had 
hoped that his mission would have brought us 
peace and comfort ; but he has caused us desola- 
tion rather than consolation. He boasts that the 


pope has sent him into the king of England's 
dominions principally to settle the dispute be- 
tween the king and us, as he shall judge best 
for the Church. We had not expected, nor de- 
served of the court of Rome, that we should be 
thus made subject to the arbitration of one whom 
all the court knows to be an enemy to us and to 
our Church. Know it of a surety that we will 
never admit his arbitration, nor abide by his deci- 
sion. For the rest, we throw all our hopes upon 
you, next to God, and we intreat you that, 
whereas we have no hope of peace from him, you 
will use all your discretion with our lord the pope 
against him, and persuade his lordship to com- 
mand all the clergy on both sides of the sea to 
respect the sentence, which we shall most right- 
eously pronounce against the king and his domi- 
nions. Moreover, please to interpose your good 
offices, that the pope may again confirm us in the 
primacy, as he did upon our first arrival at Sens. 
Farewell, and may we ever retain a place in your 
memory, as you do in ours. Send back the bearer 
as soon as you can, and inform us through him 
of the state of the Church, of our lord the pope, 
and your own. Once more, farewell !" 

1167.] BECKET TO THE POPE. 87 




" IN our solicitude for your health and well-being, 
we hoped that we had certain intelligence about 
you and your brethren, and the marvellous doings 
of the Lord towards yourself and his Church. 
For the news reached our ears, and spread through 
all France, of the humiliation with which God 
has lately visited the schismatical Frederic, in 
sight of his people and nation. But since reports 
are both right and wrong, we earnestly entreat 
your fatherly goodness to communicate to us by 
letters and messengers the glad tidings, as soon 
as possible, if God has done towards you as He 
generally does towards those who trust in Him, 
and do not place their reliance on a frail arm of 
flesh, or in the deceitful aid of princes. If the 
event is really as it is reported, blessed be God, 
who knows how to deal mercifully with his ser- 
vants. How great is his power, how boundless 
his mercies ! Unless He keep the city, he that 
guards it watches in vain. If we only view 
rightly what has happened, God has never wrought 
a more signal act of mercy since time began. He 


has justified his justice, by crushing the contrivers 
of this wickedness, the authors of this persecu- 
tion : He has consumed them by a most signal 
destruction. I pray also that He may have 
consigned that prince himself whilst still living 
to perpetual infamy before all the people, so that 
he may be a derision to every passer by, and 
that every one's finger may point at him, whilst 
they say, " Look, there is he who did not make 
the Lord his helper!" He trusted in his power, 
and has fallen in his vanity. Better would it 
have been, if he had died gloriously fighting 
against his foes, than to have lived, and so become 
the laughing-stock of all men. Who then that 
is Christ's vicegerent on earth, will dare to be 
servile towards princes, and to spare those who 
sin to the confusion of the Church? Let him 
who dares, do this; not I, lest the sin of the 
offender be transferred to my own shoulders, lest 
I become guilty of dissembling guilt, though I 
have done nothing guilty. But on this subject 
I have said enough to my lord. Whosoever 
wisely examines the works of God, will speedily 
discover what is next to be done. 

" In the second place we wish to inform your 
holiness, that our fears have been realized respect- 
ing the presumption and arrogance of my lord 
William of Pavia, as you may see by his letters, 
which he addressed to us on his first arrival. 

1107.] BECKET TO THE POPE. 89 

From the tenour of your holiness's letters to the 
king of France and to us, we had hoped to receive 
consolation and peace, and not confusion, from 
his mediation between the king of England and 
us. For he is not the man to whose arbitration 
we ought to bow in this matter ; particularly when 
it was the urgency of the king of England which 
induced you to send him, rather than your own 
bidding. We hold it inconsistent with justice 
to abide the judgment of any man who seeks to 
make a profit out of our blood, and hopes to 
obtain reputation and glory from the price of 
iniquity. We therefore affectionately entreat your 
fatherly goodness, if you have any regard for us, 
that the power of this man, if he has any over 
us and ours, may, by your interference, be re- 
voked. Relieve us, we pray you, my father, from 
the weight of this flail, which is exercised over 
the clergy, in compliance with the will of princes, 
rather than over princes, in accordance with the 
Mill of God. On all these points, and others 
which the bearer will inform you of, we pray you 
in compassion for our exile to hear us. Have 
mercy upon our protracted miseries, for all man- 
kind are now looking to see them ended. Let 
your authority resume its force, and tha sword 
of St. Peter be unsheathed, to avenge the inju- 
ries of Christ and of his Church. Let those who 
have for a while dissembled, and despised the 


avenging hands of St. Peter, feel at last their 
weight, that so the Church's liberties may have 
time to breathe, after their long depression, and 
that the world may rejoice and glorify God for 
his mercies towards you, that so the bark of St. 
Peter, which all thought was sunk, may, by your 
means, ride triumphant, and the presumption of 
kings be beaten down, which all thought had been 
successful. I should have had much to say to 
your holiness on this subject, but to avoid pro- 
lixity, I here make an end, hoping to hear from 
you what my soul longeth after. One thing, 
however, I will add, which must not be passed 
over in silence. My lord William, and his friend 
the king, thought, perhaps, by protracting the time, 
to have eluded your authority by some casualty 
or other. But God will, I hope, cause all ca- 
sualties to turn out for good, and so he who 
thought to delude you, will himself be deluded, 
and, by God's mercy, fall into the snare which he 
laid for you. God bless your holiness, and pre- 
serve your years, that it may be well with all 
of us." 



" THE load of our miseries, the bitterness of our 
sorrows, had pierced the hearts of my fellow exiles 

11 07.] SECRET TO THE POPE. 91 

and myself, and scandalized his most Christian 
majesty and the nobles of France, who fancied 
that the Church, at the arrival of John of Oxford, 
was given up into the hands of those who sought 
to deprive it of existence, and that faith and 
truth were altogether banished from the earth. 
But you have poured consolation and joy into 
our afflicted hearts, and may your paternal piety 
meet with its due reward from the Author of 
all mercies, most righteous Judge, most loving 
Father, most faithful Guardian of the liberties 
of the Church. For hope has now revived us, 
and the most Christian king of France and his 
people pray for blessings on your apostleship, 
which may God sanctify and protract to a distant 
period : all their anger is now turned on those 
who boasted that they triumphed over your 
majesty by their unscrupulous and perjured oaths. 
Since the king has received your letters of ex- 
planation, he highly extols your prudence, holi- 
ness, and regard for justice, and execrates the 
malice and tricks of those who, by their false 
reports, so scandalized the Church of France, and 
sometimes when he has an opportunity he speaks 
of it with triumph to the adverse party. But 
he has still more rejoiced since the interview 
with your legates, whom he admitted with much 
respect to an audience, and learnt from them, 
as he acknowledges, that they were not sent to 


prejudice us or the liberty of the Church, but 
to mediate between the king of England and 
us, and if possible to reconcile the king to the 
Church. God grant that they may succeed in 
this attempt, in which they shall have all the 
assistance we can give them, to the glory of God 
and the liberty of the Church. 

" They summoned us to a conference at the 
end of ten days on the frontiers, when, to say 
the truth, we had no more than three horses in 
our stables : so we contrived to gain seven more 
days, on the plea that we wished to assemble 
together our brothers in exile, who are most 
lamentably dispersed in different directions, to 
comfort us by their company on the way, and 
by their advice in the conference. After much 
difficulty on so short a notice to find funds for 
the journey, they joined us, and we met the le- 
gates on the octave of St. Martin's, between 
Gisors and Trie, where we were all very muni- 
ficently entertained at the expense of the French 
king, who sent commissioners for that purpose. 
As you have already had intimated to you by 
certain, our enemies try to weary us out by long 
and expensive journeys, that we may become a 
burden on the liberality of the French king, who 
bestows his bounty upon us, amongst other poor 
servants of Jesus Christ. For their malice would 
be gratified if they could make short work with 

1167.] BECKET TO THE POPE. 93 

us, by driving us out of the asylum which God 
has found for us, and deprive us of the king of 
France's protection, as they did of our home at 

" My lords the cardinals were accompanied 
by no one but the archbishop of Rouen, for the 
bishops-aqd abbats of our own province, whom 
the king had summoned, were detained at Rouen. 
They then at once reminded us of the unbend- 
ing character of the king, the wickedness of the 
times, the necessities and sufferings of the Church, 
which is assailed by enemies in every country 
except France, and is shaken by storms which 
she can hardly bear up against. They said a 
good deal about the grandeur and power of the 
king, the love and honour which he displayed 
towards the Roman Church, the friendship, favour, 
and benefits which he had conferred on us, whilst 
on the other hand, they exaggerated his causes 
of complaint against us, and said that we had 
brought him into a war with the king of France 
and the count of Flanders. They urged us to 
be humble, and by a show of moderation to en- 
deavour to appease his anger ; if indeed such 
ferocity can be appeased, or such unbounded 
severity be mitigated. They also begged us, as 
we know his character so well, to tell them the 
best way of softening him. For he had also 
treated them roughly, when he heard that they 


were not empowered to pass sentence on us, as 
John of Oxford's promises had led him to expect. 
His language in presence of his bishops had 
better be told you by word of mouth from the 
bearer, if so please God, for it is not fit to be 
put down in writing. We, however, giving 
thanks to your excellency for the regard which 
you have shown for the peace of the Church and 
ourself, which is your true glory, as it is of God 
himself, wiped out the suspicions which the king 
tries to cast upon us, by good and sound argu- 
ments ; and on the following day the French 
king, in presence of the cardinals, cleared us on 
oath of the accusation which the Ruler and 
Judge of the heart knows us to be innocent of ! 
For we are not so dull and slow to believe the 
law and the prophets and the Gospel, as to throw 
down our spiritual arms of apostolic discipline 
in so great an emergency, and have recourse to 
carnal weapons, which priests ought never to 
make use of. We know that no trust can be 
placed on princes, and that cursed is the man 
who placeth his reliance on an arm of flesh. That 
no such suspicion might be entertained of us, 
we kept aloof from an interview until the king 
himself summoned us, when we approached in 
order to present in writing our apology, and to 
obtain safe conduct from my lord Otho, the legate, 
who had sent to us his clerk, Papias, for this very 

1167.] BECKET TO THE POPE. 95 

purpose. His majesty suspected the result of 
this legatine commission, both because it had been 
obtained at the king of England's request, and 
because, as he told us, that he had already been 
once injured by them, at the time when he had 
acknowledged your highness as pope, besides 
which, he^was vexed to hear the boasts of John 
of Oxford and his associates. He admitted our 
apology most graciously, and when we had got 
the safe-conduct, we returned to the habitation 
which God has granted to our indigent circum- 
stances, there to remain in expectation of His 
salvation. But because humility and modesty 
are ever pleasing to so great a prince, we readily 
answered the king of England in the way that 
your legates wished, that we would show him 
obedience and service with all humility and de- 
votion, because he is our king and lord, saving 
the honour of God and of the apostolic see, the 
liberty of the Church, the honour due to our own 
person, and the possessions of the Churches. And 
if anything ought to be added, or any reservation 
or alteration made in this profession, we requested 
that they would tell us of it, because it was 
our wish to obey them as far as the law of our 
order and vows would allow us. But they re- 
plied that they had no definite instructions on 
this head, and were come not to advise but to 
consult us ; and they asked us temptingly, inas- 


much as, according to the words of my lord 
William, we are not better than our forefathers, 
whether we would promise to observe towards 
him all the customs which our predecessors had 
observed towards us, and so an end would be put 
to this contention, and the king would receive us 
into favour, and allow us to return to our pro- 
vince. But we made an answer that no one of 
our predecessors had been compelled to make any 
such promise to any of his ; nor would we, by 
God's grace, ever pledge ourselves to the obser- 
vance of usages such as these, from which your 
holiness, in the presence of themselves and many 
others, so mercifully absolved us at Sens ; adding, 
in a manner becoming a successor of the apostles, 
what we pray God to preserve ever in our me- 
mory, that rather ought we to submit our neck 
to the executioner, than become a party to such 
perversities, and for base traffic of temporal ad- 
vantages, or from the love of life, to abandon the 
pastoral care. The depraved constitutions were 
then read in their presence : some of them we 
had already condemned, or rather the holy 
Church had condemned them, together with those 
who upheld them in many a public council. We 
asked, not whether it was lawful to observe them, 
but whether a priest might ever use dissimulation 
on such a subject without danger of his orders 
and of his salvation. To this also we added, that 

1167.] BECKET TO THE POPE. 97 

we had sworn fidelity to the king saving our order, 
and we would keep our oath, only so that our al- 
legiance to God might not be set aside. On this, 
one whom as your holiness knows we have sus- 
spected, and still most justly suspect, intimated 
that perhaps it were better for ourself to with- 
draw altogether, than that the Church of God 
should be thus tormented. We answered, that 
by thus withdrawing, we should set an example 
which must ruin the liberty of the Church, and 
perhaps bring into jeopardy the Christian faith 
itself ; for if other shepherds withdrew in like 
manner, who was there to rise up and oppose 
himself, as a wall for the house of Israel ? We 
added, that neither your holiness, nor your apos- 
tolic predecessors, had so instructed the Church 
by your example. 

" They then proceeded to ask whether we pro- 
posed to abide by their judgment, as to the points 
in dispute between ourself and the king ; and 
here if we had refused, it would have given a 
semblance of justice to the king's cause ; yet if 
it pleases your holiness, one who has shown him- 
self our adversary ought never to be our judge. 
Nor indeed should we be safe anywhere, except 
in your holiness's presence ; for that king, by 
proscribing some and harassing others, has caused 
such consternation among all, that no one with 
his knowledge would dare to show us any good. 



After considering everything, we so tempered our 
answer as neither positively to decline their judg- 
ment, nor yet to expose ourself to so dangerous 
a trial ; stating, that whereas ourself and ours had 
been deprived of our see, our authority and all 
our goods, we would be willing, on receiving full 
restitution, to submit ourself whenever and 
wherever your holiness pleased, either to your 
own judgment, or to that of any persons whom 
you should please to appoint ; but that till then, 
our poverty made litigation impossible, for that 
we could never call on his most Christian majesty 
to be at the expense of supporting ourself and 
our fellow-exiles for a long time together in 
hired houses. 

" They proceeded to a third question, whether 
we would acknowledge themselves as judges, in 
the case of appeal made against us by our bishops? 
We answered, that on this head we had received 
no instructions from your holiness, and that our 
poverty ill suited with an expensive litigation. 

" It was the object of our adversaries, as we 
learn from those who can hardly be mistaken, to 
seek some occasion of stigmatizing us in the pre- 
sence of the legates, and thus by one means or 
another to hurt our cause. It is thought that no 
one of our countrymen would have dared to 
take part with us against the king, and that thus 
our ruin would have been effected. The king 

1167.] BECKET TO THE POPE. 99 

has summoned none but those who have taken 
part against us from the beginning of these 
troubles, and who are notoriously the instigators 
of the whole; viz. the archbishop of York, and 
the bishops of London and Chi Chester, with whom 
the bishop of Worcester is joined, as a blind. 
Yet, as -your holiness's wisdom will recollect, 
these very persons who are now most clamorous 
on the king's side, and, as every one knows, thirst 
after our blood, on a former occasion, when they 
petitioned your holiness for our pall, and for the 
confirmation of our election, used very different 
language. But now, in contradiction at once to 
the truth and to themselves, they have exposed 
themselves to contempt for their falseness and 
for their flattery, saying, yea, nay, at the king's 
will, like the slave in the comedy. 

" These are they, holy father, who give horns 
to the offender, and urge him on, when he seems 
to hesitate in his mad career, putting cushions 
under his arms, and pillows on which his head, 
weighed down with evil deeds, may repose itself. 
These were thought to be the pillars of the 
Church, but now their cry is against both her 
and us, they are arming our persecutors with their 
authority, and encouraging them by their own 
example, so that it is not safe for us to submit 
to judgment except in your holiness's presence 
and before your holiness's tribunal. Though the 



Church and myself may hope for the best from 
one of the legates, especially in things which con- 
cern the Almighty, yet there is no one but you 
to whom we can fully trust. May God turn the 
heart of the other legate, and make him what 
may be best for his own salvation, and as best 
befits a cardinal of the holy Roman Church. We 
fear much that the prudential character and plau- 
sibility of my lord William may lead him to 
exert his authority too much in unison with 
the power and perverseness of the English king ; 
lest such propositions should be offered to us as 
would offend us to listen to them, such as we 
could not grant without offending God and the 
whole world. The care of all the Churches rests 
upon you ; turn your eyes all around you and see 
how the Church is treated throughout the West : 
let my lord Otto, who is, we believe, actuated by 
the Spirit of God, tell you what he has seen and 
knows about the Church in the province of Tours, 
what he has heard about the English Church, and 
what he has experienced in Normandy. We be- 
lieve you will exclaim with us, * Never was any 
sorrow like unto this sorrow.' To say nothing of 
the dioceses of Canterbury and Tours, which you 
know how he has treated, and I wish you knew 
more fully, there are no less than seven bishoprics 
vacant in the provinces of Canterbury and Rouen, 
the revenues of which the king himself enjoys, 

1167.] BECKET TO THE POPE. 101 

and will not allow successors to be consecrated. 
The clergy of his kingdom are given up to his 
satellites to be trodden underfoot, and to be 
made a spoil. If we dissemble such things, holy 
father, what shall we answer to the Lord on the 
day of judgment ? Who shall resist Anti-Christ 
when he comes, if we show such patience towards 
the vices and crimes of his precursors ? By such 
leniency we encourage kings to become tyrants, 
and tempt them to withdraw every privilege and 
all jurisdiction from the Churches. But blessed 
is he who dashes such little ones against the 
stones ! for if Judah does not obey the law by 
exterminating the Cananseans, they will grow up 
and unite with his enemies. Be of good courage, 
then, holy father, they be more which are with 
us than are against us. The lord has crushed 
the impious Frederic and will crush the others 
shortly, unless they come to their senses and 
make peace with the Church of God. And now, 
in conclusion, we abide judgment from your lips 
only, or from His who is wont to take away the 
breath of princes, and to free the poor from the 
hands of the powerful. The bearers will tell you 
more, which I fear to commit to paper. Your holi- 
ness may depend upon it, that if we had intended 
to acquiesce in the illegal constitutions, there 
would have been no need of the intervention of 
a cardinal or of any other person. The examples 


of Sicilians and Hungarians, are, if it please God, 
held out to us in vain : they would not shield us 
in the day of judgment, if we set aside the insti- 
tutions of the apostles in favour of the cruelty of 
tyrants, and make the pride of secular kings our 
rule of life, rather than the eternal law which the 
Son of God confirmed by his death. To sum up, 
then, all that has been said into one lamentable 
conclusion, consider whether these are the due 
fruits of our labour and our exile, that we are 
to submit to judgment, whilst we are stripped 
of our goods, and to incur all the anguish of a 
suit, because we dared to defend the Church's 
liberty against its oppressor ; whereas we had ex- 
pected daily to receive comfort out of our deso- 
lation, joy from the termination of our miseries, 
and vengeance on the oppressors of the Church 
from God and from you after the injuries which 
Christ has suffered. Ought not they who seek 
our life, to be content with having slain some of 
us, and brought on us the poverty and destitution 
which makes us live on the alms of others, with- 
out protracting our time from year to year by 
these legatine commissions, which should never 
have been granted, by which our grief is aggra- 
vated and our rights turned to the ruin of all of 
us? Good God, what will be the end of this? 
Arise, O God, and judge thy cause, avenge the 
blood of thy servants, who have sinfully been 


slain, and of others also, who faint under their 
insupportable afflictions : for there is no one but 
our lord the pope and a few others with him, who 
is willing to deliver us out of the hands of our 
enemies. May your holiness live long and in 
health, that we may live and prosper likewise, 
we and oiiMniserable companions in exile." 



" I DO not doubt that you are anxious about the 
state of the Church and the issue of the legatine 
commission. I therefore write to inform you 
thereof briefly, and to give you and other pious 
friends as much consolation as is in my power. 
You must know, then, that our lord of Canterbury 
and certain of his fellow exiles had an audience 
with the cardinals on the octave of St. Martin's, 
[Nov. 18,] between Gisors and Trie. The le- 
gates said much about the kindness of his holi- 
ness the pope, and the solicitude with which he 
regards us, about their own labours, and the 
dangers of their journey ; about the king's great- 
ness, and the exigencies of the Church ; about 
the badness of the times, about the favours 
the king had formerly bestowed on his lordship 
of Canterbury, and the honour he had always 


rendered him ; something too they added, about 
the injuries the king complained of receiving 
from his lordship, intimating among other things 
that he had instigated the king of France to 
war. Finally, they wished to devise some means 
for allaying the existing irritation, which they 
said could not be effected but with much hu- 
mility, moderation, and deference. 

" His lordship of Canterbury, with the greatest 
dignity and gentleness, expressed his sense of 
their kindness, and that of his holiness the pope ; 
and proceeded to show the futility of the king's 
complaints, and the extent of the Church's suf- 
ferings. As to the humility and deference which 
they recommended, he was most anxious to exhibit 
it in every possible way, saving only the honour 
of God, and the liberty of the Church, and the 
dignity of his own station. If this seemed too 
little, or too much, or in any way different from 
their view, he was ready to make any com- 
pliance consistent with his oaths, and saving his 

" They answered, that they were not sent to 
advise, but to consult him, and, if possible, to 
contrive some terms of reconciliation ; and pro- 
ceeded to inquire whether, in the presence of 
the legates, he would pledge himself to observe 
the usages which had been observed towards for- 
mer kings by his predecessors ; and thus to re- 


turn to the king's favour, and to the duties of 
his see, and to procure peace for himself and 

" The archbishop replied, that no king had ever 
exacted such a pledge from any of his predeces- 
sors, nor would he, by God's grace, pledge himself 
to observe -usages manifestly opposed to the law 
of God and the rights of the apostolic see, and 
destructive of the Church's liberty. That these 
usages had been condemned in the presence of 
the legates themselves, and of many others, by 
the pope at Sens ; and that some of them had 
been anathematized, with their observers, by him- 
self, on the pope's authority for which proceed- 
ing there were many precedents. 

" He was asked if, though he could not con- 
form, he would at any rate promise to overlook 
and tolerate them, or, without making any men- 
tion of them one way or another, to return to 
his see in peace. He answered with the proverb 
of our nation, that in such a case * silence is 
consent.' For that, if at a time when the usages 
are actually enforced, and the Church is sub- 
mitting under compulsion, all collision was to 
cease, and the subject was to be dropped, under 
the sanction of the legates ; this would be a 
positive acknowledgment of the king's claims. 
He added, too, that he would endure exile and 
proscription for ever, and, if it pleased God, 


death in a just cause, rather than buy peace at 
the cost of his own salvation, and of the liberty 
of the Church. After this the schedule of these 
abominations was read over, and the cardinals 
were asked whether they were such as any 
Christian could observe, much less a shepherd 
of Christ's flock. 

" They proceeded to another question, asking 
whether he would abide by their judgment as 
to the matters between himself and the king. 
He said that he relied on the goodness of his 
cause ; and that whenever himself and his should 
be restored to their possessions which had been 
confiscated, he would readily let the law take 
its course, and had neither the power nor the 
will to decline the arbitration, either of their 
lordships, or of any others whom his holiness the 
pope should appoint in such time, place, and 
manner as should be right. But that, in the 
meantime, neither he nor his could be required 
to enter on litigation, nor indeed had they means 
wherewith to do so : for that they depended, 
even for their daily bread, on the munificence of 
his most Christian majesty. 

"He was then asked whether he would con- 
sent to their hearing evidence on the appeal of 
the bishops, for that the appellants were ready. 
The archbishop, remembering the circumstances 
under which the pretended appeal had been no- 


tified to him, and that it had been conceived in 
the name of all the bishops, abbats, and dignitaries 
of his province, whereas he well knew that they 
had not been assembled at Rouen, and indeed 
that most of them had known nothing of it, 
while of those who did, many disapproved it as 
being rather an evasion than an appeal ; answered, 
that he had received no instructions from the 
pope upon the subject, but that on receiving 
them, he would return such an answer as he 
might judge reasonable. Finally, that the poverty 
of himself and his friends disabled them from 
undertaking lawsuits and expensive journeys, 
nor would he consent to encroach on the bounty 
of his most Christian majesty, by asking him to 
maintain them in hired houses. 

" The day following his most Christian majesty 
admitted the legates to an interview, and, with 
the ceremony of an oath, asserted the innocence 
of his lordship of Canterbury, protesting that he 
had always counselled peace on such terms as 
should secure the honour of the two kings, and 
the tranquillity of their people. 

" The archbishop requested the legates to 
favour him with their advice, and to point out 
any line of conduct which they might judge to 
be for the interest of the Church. They ex- 
pressed their confidence in his zeal, and com- 
passion for his sufferings, and thought his present 


line of conduct could not be altered for the 
better. On this they parted with mutual ex- 
pressions of good will. 

" Such is now the state of things, and, God 
willing, such it shall remain, till our persecutors 
are either converted or perish. The Church is 
instant in prayer for you, that your faith fail 
not ; and do you, in your turn, strengthen your 
brethren. Show these things to those to whom 
you are sent, raise the fallen strengthen those 
who stand. They who are with us are more 
than they which are against us. HE will not 
desert the Church in its affliction, who laid down 
His life to purchase it. The saints will not 
desert the cause for which they feared not to 
shed their blood. The whole army of the hea- 
venly powers join in defending it. And, if we 
may trust the hope of the faithful, and the pro- 
mises of the fathers, that MAJESTY, which treads 
Satan under His feet, shall ere long arise against 
his members the ministers of iniquity ; and the 
issue shall be swift, easy, and joyful." 



" ON the Tuesday following the octave of St. 
Martin's, [Nov. 18,] the cardinals reached the 


monastery of Bee ; from thence they proceeded 
the next day to Lisieux, and on the third day 
to St. Peter's on the Dive. On the fourth day, 
which was on the ides of December preceding 
our Lord's advent, they arrived at Argenton. 
The same day the king went out two leagues 
to meet them, and having saluted them with 
much cheerfulness and urbanity, escorted them 
both to their lodgings. On the following day, 
after mass, they were invited at an early hour 
to wait on the king, and entered the audience- 
chamber in company with the archbishops, bishops, 
and abbats, who were admitted. After they had 
been closeted about two hours they came out, 
and the king followed them as far as the outer 
door of the chapel, where he turned round and 
said aloud in their hearing, ' I hope to God I 
may never again set eyes on a cardinal !" He 
then dismissed them with so much haste, that 
though their quarters were not far off, there was 
no time for them to get their own horses, but 
they were obliged to take the first that they 
could find waiting on the spot. There were only 
four persons at the utmost who came out with 
the cardinals : the others, archbishops, bishops, 
and abbats, were still in council with the king, 
where they remained until a late hour in the 
evening : after which they came out and rejoined 
the cardinals, all of them evidently in great dis- 


may. When they had remained in their com- 
pany some time, they separated and returned to 
their lodgings. 

" The next morning the prelates and the others 
were with the king until twelve o'clock, and then 
went backwards and forwards from the king to 
the cardinals, and from the cardinals to the 
king, carrying private messages from one to the 

" On the following day, which was St. Andrew's 
eve, the king rose at an early hour, and went with 
his dogs and falcons, intentionally, as it was re- 
ported, that he might absent himself from the 
cardinals. The bishops met early at the royal 
chapel, and from thence adjourned to the au- 
dience-chamber : where they held council together 
without the king, and then went to the Church 
which was near the cardinals' hotel. There were 
present the archbishops of Rouen and York, the 
bishops of Worcester, Salisbury, Bayeux, London, 
Chichester, and others, also several abbats, and 
a large number both of the clergy and laity. The 
cardinals having been invited to attend and hear 
what was proposed, entered and took their seats : 
whereupon the bishop of London rose, and betrayed 
his agitation by the rapid and inelegant style 
of his address : he spoke thus. ' You have heard 
that we have received letters from our lord the 
pope, and that they are in our possession at this 


moment : wherein the pope commanded us to 
meet you when you should summon us, and he 
stated that you had full powers to decide the 
cause which is pending between the king and 
the archbishop of Canterbury, and between us, 
the bishops of England, and the same archbishop. 
In consequence of these instructions we no sooner 
heard of your arrival in these parts than we came 
to meet you, ready to plead or be impleaded, 
and to leave the cause to your decision. Our 
lord the king also offers to abide by whatever 
sentence you may choose to pronounce between 
him and our lord of Canterbury. Since, there- 
fore, neither the king nor we have thrown diffi- 
culties in the way of the pope's mandate, let the 
blame rest on the shoulders of those who deserve 
it. Meanwhile, however, as the archbishop does 
everything precipitately, and strikes without notice, 
and excommunicates without warning ; we have, 
therefore, appealed to the pope in order to avoid 
a sudden and unexpected sentence. We already 
once before made an appeal to his holiness : we 
now renew it, and all England joins in it.' His 
lordship then explained the grounds of quarrel 
between you and the king : ' His majesty claims 
of the archbishop 44,000 marks of silver, on ac- 
count of the revenues which were committed to 
his keeping when he was chancellor ; and the 
archbishop replies that he was not held to give 


account when he was promoted to the archbishop- 
ric, and that if he was bound to give account, 
he was absolved from it by his very promotion.' 
The bishop then began to make a joke of you, 
saying that you fancied consecration wiped away 
debts as baptism does sin. He then proceeded 
to relate the causes of alarm, which had led him 
and the other bishops to appeal : these were 
their own humiliation, the interests of their 
churches, and separation from the Roman Church : 
for that the king would perhaps abandon the 
holy see, if your interdict should be carried into 
effect. He also mentioned how you throw dis- 
honour upon him on account of his statutes : and 
protested that the king was willing to revoke 
the statute by which appeals were forbidden, that 
he had only enacted it to save the poor clerks 
from expense, and that he was now provoked to 
find them ungrateful for it. If, therefore, they 
liked, they might carry ecclesiastical causes be- 
fore the ecclesiastical judge, provided that in 
all civil causes they appeared before the civil 

" Lastly, he said that you imposed unfair bur- 
dens on himself, commanding him to disperse 
your briefs through England, and that forty 
couriers were not enough for this : and, as a 
farther grievance, that you had withdrawn from 
his jurisdiction nearly forty churches, on the 


ground that they had formerly paid rents to the 
monastery of St. Trinity or St. Augustine's ; and 
that you had your dean stationed in the city of 
London, to keep a look out on him, and to try 
causes which concerned the aforesaid churches; 
and that these grievances were directed against 
himself more than any other bishop. 

" His lordship of Salisbury joined in the ap- 
peal, in his own name and that of the bishop 
of Winchester. Likewise the archdeacon of Can- 
terbury appealed against you, and one of the 
monks of your convent. 

" The cardinals left the king the Thursday 
following the first Sunday in Advent. On their 
departure the king entreated them most humbly 
that they would intercede with the pope to rid 
him of you altogether. In asking this he shed 
tears in the presence of the cardinals and others. 
Lord William of Pavia seemed to weep too, but 
lord Otto could scarcely conceal his amuse- 

" The sum of the matter is this : Lord William of 
Pavia sends a chaplain of his, a relative of Mas- 
ter Lombard, with all haste to the pope ; and the 
king sends two envoys, a retainer of the bishop 
of London, called Master Henry, and with him 
Reginald, son of the bishop of Salisbury. 

" Moreover, the Saturday before the secord 
Sunday in Advent, master Jocelin of Chichester, 



and the precentor of Salisbury, left the cardinals, 
who were then at Evreux, to denounce to your 
lordship the appeal made by the clergy of Eng- 
land. Likewise they bear letters to you. The 
cardinals salute you with the style and title of 
legate of the apostolic see, but in the conclusion 
of the letter they forbid you, on the pope's autho- 
rity, to pronounce an interdict against the king- 
dom of England or its clergy. 

" Lord Otto gives the pope secret information, 
that he will neither authorize nor consent to your 
deposition. The king seems to have no wish but 
for your head in a charger. Farewell." 



" REGARD for the friendship by which we are 
bound towards yourself and the illustrious king 
of England, will not suffer me to deviate from 
my wish to serve you to the utmost of my power, 
and to yield a ready assent to all that tends to 
advance your honour. We have therefore endea- 
voured to promote your wishes, as signified to us 
in your letter, as much as we were able. From the 
first moment of our acquaintance with my lord the 
king of England, we have done our best to obtain 
for him the support and countenance of the 

1167.] SECRET TO THE POPE. 115 

Roman see, that so, by our intervention, severity 
might be tempered with moderation, and regard 
for the royal dignity, as well as his many services, 
might outlive in the memory of the apostolic pon- 
tiff the slight coolness in his devotion and respect 
which later times have developed. By our watch- 
ful care, therefore, no severe measures have yet 
been taken, nor will any for the future, as we 
hope, by God's mercy, to prevent it, until a 
readier way of peace be found, and the former 
good understanding be restored between him and 
the Church. Farewell." 



" WE send to your holiness our faithful clerks 
the bearers of these letters, two of our wretched 
fellow-exiles, to inform you what has happened 
to us in these latter days, and to tell you of our 
misery and our anguish, which is immense. May 
your holiness grant to us at length that long- 
hoped and long-delayed release from the oppres- 
sions to which ourself and our Church are exposed. 
Hold out the right hand of compassion and raise 
us up, lest we faint beneath tribulation more 
severe than was ever before felt since tribulation 
i 2 


first began. We have been 'drawn along, as your 
excellency well knows, no less cruelly than un- 
justly, from one season to another, so that our 
soul sinks under its sufferings ; we are worn out 
and almost ground beneath the weight of our 
miseries, and what is worse, your apostolical 
authority is meanwhile departing, which, by God's 
mercy, should have lifted us up out of our anguish 
before we were entirely spent. Incline thine ear 
then, my lord, and hear me ; let thy eyes look 
upon me, and behold if there ever was wicked- 
ness like this, if there ever was grief like mine : 
we are given over to be plundered, unless God's 
mercy, by your hand, visit us. We are become 
a derision to those who are round about us, by 
the authority of your legates, who have acted no 
less wickedly than presumptuously towards us and 
the Church. If they have done so to us in the 
green wood, what will they do in the dry ; 
what will they do if their legation lasts, which 
I wish had never been granted ? They have sus- 
pended us, as far as in them lay, from .all the 
authority which we possessed over the English 
Church. This never could have been done by 
you towards me at any prince's or other man's 
bidding, nor shall it now, by God's mercy, be 
done, as your highness has most surely promised 
us. Why, my lord, have you given the legation 
to that man ? My lord should have considered, 

1167.] BECKET TO THE POPE. 117 

if he will allow me so to speak, what else could 
be expected from one, whose whole soul has been 
poured out to sacrifice the dignities of the Church, 
if he can but gain the king's favour ? My lord, my 
lord, it is to you that we look to save us from 
perishing. Help us, my lord, and fulfil the promises, 
which I hope did not exhilarate our hearts in vain. 
We waited, as your highness bade us, we waited 
for peace and it came not. We waited for good 
at the hands of your legates, and behold greater 
affliction, and more intense tribulation. Pity us, 
O lord, pity us, for there is no one next to God 
who will fight for us but you and your faithful 
ones. Pity us, that God may pity you at the last 
judgment, when you shall render an account of 
your stewardship. You are, next to God, our 
only refuge : for even those who out of respect 
for the holy Roman Church ought to have stood 
by us and -fought for us, set themselves against 
us, that they may gain the favour of men. 
We have exhausted our means, and have en- 
dured vexation upon vexation, nor have we 
strength left us to endure the least of their an- 
noyances. We pray your highness then to aid 
us and the Church, and check this wickedness, 
whilst there is still time. We can scarcely 
breathe for our anguish ; hasten then to bestow 
your grace upon us, before we perish. May your 
excellency's life, which next to God's love is so 


dear to us, be long spared, to bestow upon us 
your munificence, and recall us from the gates 
of death. Be it known to your discretion, that 
three days before these evils came upon us, our 
messenger set out for your court, bearing our 
letters, in which we told you we had parted from 
your legates. The king and queen of France, 
and some of the princes and bishops of his king- 
dom, together with some other more humble 
friends of yours, wrote to you, giving thanks to 
God and to you, that the falsehoods of John 
of Oxford and the other ambassadors of the king, 
about our downfall and deposition, were at last 
refuted by the arrival of your legates. For it 
was felt as a scandal by all in France, and by all 
every where, among whom that report was spread, 
except among the adversaries of the Church and 
ourself. But now our harp is turned to mourn- 
ing, our joy to sadness, and the last error is worse 
than the first. We pray you, therefore, to ap- 
ply a speedy remedy to the approaching evil, that 
the truth may be manifest to all, how these 
things have been done without your knowledge 
or commands. God bless your holiness, and for 




" I DID not think that I was to be set up for sale 
to the buyers, or that you would make gain of 
my blood, and procure out of the price of iniquity 
a name and reputation for yourself. You would 
have looked for another field wherein to reap 
your harvest, if you had not been perilously -for- 
getful of your station, and weighed the sports 
of fortune in a very different balance from mine. 
You were encouraged, perhaps, to do so by the 
contemplation of my humbled condition ; you be- 
held my adversity, but you should have looked 
forwards to greater prosperity hereafter. The vicis- 
situdes of things are great, and as the fall from suc- 
cess and triumph is easy, so may we also rise again. 
I cannot believe your prudence to be ignorant, 
though you have yet had no personal experience 
of the truth, that there is nothing exalted, which 
has not danger lurking near it ; nothing humble 
which good fortune may not shine on ! I write 
thus, that you may be led to direct your attention 


to those sudden changes ; observe them well, and 
when you have done so, be indulgent. The vessel 
of St. Peter ought not to have been exposed to 
these storms : though she cannot be crushed, she 
may yet be shaken ; she cannot sink, but will 
float again, however the waves may toss her. If 
then you wish to be a true disciple and good 
seaman of that Pilot and true fisher of men, as 
you have often felt the favouring breezes of pros- 
perity, so should you present yourself with 
courage under every danger to meet the frowns 
of adversity. If you have received good from 
the hand of fortune, shall you not receive evil 
also, evil which perhaps will endure but for a 
moment ? Thus our master, Peter, the chief of the 
apostles, not by yielding, but by resisting kings 
and disturbing the peace of the wicked, gained for 
himself by martyrdom a name on earth and glory 
in heaven. In this way has the Church gained 
strength and renewed vigour, when it was thought 
that she was annihilated. In short, this is what 
I wish you to do ; so act here that you may live 
happily in the Lord. God bless you, that I too 
may be blessed !" 





THE failure of every attempt which had yet been 
made to procure the archbishop's restoration was 
attended with inconvenience to many besides his 
lordship : for the numerous clerks 1 and retainers 
who adhered to the archbishop, were all suffering 
from the want of their ecclesiastical revenues, and 
also from the necessary evils that accompany ex- 
patriation. The king and nobles of France made 
many attempts to intercede effectually in their 
behalf. On one of these occasions the king- of 
England so far conceded as to admit some of 
these exiles into his presence, for he could not 
deny that their faults consisted only in being zea- 
lous and faithful in their master's service. The in- 
terview between them and his majesty is curious, 
and is told by Fitz-Stephen in these words. 

" The king of England consented, and gave the 

1 It is difficult to say in what year of the archbishop's exile 
this attempt was made to obtain the restoration of his clerks. 
Froude places it in 1165, but this seems too early : it is not, 
however, a matter of much importance. 


clerks a safe-conduct, to last during the time they 
should remain in his dominions, and until they 
returned back to their present residence. In 
consequence of this permission, on the first Sun- 
day after Easter, they came to Angers, where 
the king had been celebrating the festival, and 
on a certain day the king, attended by his court, 
gave audience to the clerks. The first who came 
before him was John of Salisbury, who on enter- 
ing the room saluted the king, and asked to be 
allowed to return to England in peace, and be 
restored to his ecclesiastical preferments, because 
he had never knowingly done anything to offend 
the king, and was ready to- serve him as his 
earthly master with all devotion and fidelity, 
saving his own order. To this it was replied on 
the part of the king, that John was born in his 
dominions, and all his relations obtained their 
subsistence there, and that he had risen under 
his majesty's protection to riches and honour, 
and he ought, therefore, to be faithful to the 
king in everything, not only against the arch- 
bishop but against every body in the world ; and 
when this was said, they put before him a form 
of oath, binding himself to be faithful to the 
king in life and limb, and to defend the earthly 
honour of his majesty against all persons whatso- 
ever, and in particular, that he would observe 
the royal constitutions and dignities as they had 


been reduced to writing, notwithstanding all tliat 
the pope or the archbishop might do to prevent 
him. John assented to all this until he got to 
the constitutions, but here he stuck, saying that 
the church of Canterbury had nurtured him from 
his youth, and that he had sworn obedience to 
the pope and to the archbishop, and that he could 
not, therefore, desert the Church of Canterbury 
or his lord the archbishop, nor undertake to ob- 
serve any of the constitutions without their autho- 
rity, but he was prepared to conform to all which 
met with their approval, and to reject all that 
they rejected. This answer, however, did not 
satisfy the king, and John of Salisbury was ordered 
to withdraw. 

" Herbert de Bosham was then called in. 'Now,' 
said king Henry to his attendants, " you will see 
a pretty pompous fellow.' Herbert was of a 
great stature and good-looking, and had on a 
handsome dress of green cloth of Auxerre, con- 
sisting of a tunic and a cloak, which hung over 
his shoulders in the German fashion down to his 
ankles, with every other article of his toilet cor- 
responding to it. He entering, saluted his majesty 
and took his seat. He was questioned in the 
same manner as John, and made for the most part 
the same answers. On the mention of loyalty, and 
the archbishop, he said that the archbishop above 


all men was most especially loyal, for that lie 
had not suffered his majesty to go astray un- 
warned. Of the usages he spoke as John had 
done, and added, that he wondered the king had 
put them in writing. ' For,' said he, ' in other 
kingdoms likewise there are evil usages against 
the Church ; but they are not written, and for 
this reason there is hope, by God's grace, that they 
may become disused.' The king wishing to catch 
him in his words, asked, * And what are the ill 
usages in the kingdom of our lord the king of 
France ?' 

"Herbert. The exactions of toll and passage 
money from the clergy and strangers. Again, 
when a bishop dies, all his moveables, even the 
doors and windows of his house, become the 
king's. Again, these and similar ill usages, though 
they exist, are still not written in the realm of 
the king of Germany. 

" The king. Why do you not call him by his 
proper title, the emperor of Germany. 

" Herbert. His title is king of Germany, and 
when he styles himself emperor, it is emperor of 
the Romans, semper Augustus. 

" The king. This is abominable. Is this son 
of a priest to disturb my kingdom and disquiet 
my peace ? 

" Herbert. It is not I that do it ; nor, again, 


am I the son of a priest, for I was born before 
my father entered orders ; nor is he a king's son, 
whose father was not king when he was born. 

" Here Jordan de Tarsum, one of the barons 
sitting by, said to his neighbour, ' Whosesoever 
son he is, I would give half my barony that he 
should be mine.' 

" The king was angry and said nothing ; Her- 
bert was dismissed and withdrew. 

" Philip de Calve was then called in : he was 
by birth a Londoner, and had studied at Tours 
two years before the archbishop went into exile : 
he was very well-informed in the Scriptures, and 
a most eloquent man, but from ill-health he did 
not accompany his patron into exile, nor did he 
go to Rome, or mix himself up at all in the quarrel 
with the king. All this was now explained to 
his majesty ; and his cause was supported by some 
influential advocates, who told the king that when 
Richard had heard of his having been deprived of 
his property in England on the archbishop's ac- 
count, he exclaimed, 'Good God, what can our 
noble king expect to get from me?' The king 
was persuaded in his favour, and remitted the 
oath, together with a free-pardon and the resti- 
tution of all his possessions. After which, his 
majesty rose from the sitting and turned his at- 
tention to other matters." 

Thus, with the exception of Richard de Calve, 


who was allowed to return to England, this inter- 
view failed altogether, and no other attempt was 
made to procure the restoration of the exiled J 
for it was evident that they were not disposed 
to abandon the cause of their master, and it was 
inconvenient for them to make distant journeys 
for nothing. This is actually stated by John of 
Salisbury in a letter to a friend 2 . 

" I do not wish to go to the king's court any 
more about obtaining my pardon, unless there is 
a reasonable prospect of succeeding. My circum- 
stances are narrow, and as I gain my livelihood 
by teaching, I cannot afford to be absent or to 
spend money ; particularly at present, when I 
have fewer means and more incumbrances. I 
spent thirteen pounds in going to Angers last 
Easter, and lost two horses, besides losing my 
labour and experiencing many other annoyances." 




THREE tedious years had now passed over the 
heads of the exiles, and they seemed still to be 

2 Epistolse J. Sar. 183. 


as far off as ever from making peace with the 
king, and returning in safety to their native land. 
But three more years were to elapse before their 
privations would be at an end. The bounty of 
the French king had supplied them not only with 
a sufficiency, but, as it would appear, with some 
degree of magnificence, which, though far short of 
the splendour that reigned in the numerous 
palaces of the archbishop at home, nevertheless 
served in a manner to keep up an appearance 
suited to the high rank of the English primate. 
But with all the alleviations which wealth or 
favour may furnish, exile is still an evil, and that 
Becket felt it so is the plain inference which 
we may draw from all his letters. This fact must 
strengthen our admiration of a man who could so 
long hold out against his sovereign. The most 
unbending pertinacity might be thought insuffi- 
cient to maintain a cause for so long a time : it 
remains then to infer, that the archbishop was 
sincere in so long and so often refusing to with- 
draw the condition, " Saving God's honour and 
his own," without which he refused to yield to 
the king's solicitations. If it had been his in- 
tention to yield, as we have seen in his own 
letter, there would have been no need of medi- 
ators : the cardinal-legates might have remained 
in the pope's conclave at Rome, for the ground of 
quarrel between the king and the archbishop was 


apparently of the narrowest description. Even 
the king, they said, had wavered, and as the 
bishop of London in his letters stated, he was 
willing to modify his constitutions according to 
the wishes of the Church. But the archbishop 
knew that this disposition of the king could 
not be relied on : he was too well acquainted 
with that monarch's character to suppose that he 
would retract or recede one step from his pre- 
tensions : he was also well aware that the ap- 
parently slender cause of quarrel between them 
was the thread on which the liberties of the 
Church depended 3 . He had now borne some- 

3 It is quite clear from all our ancient chroniclers and his- 
torians, that the principle on which the Church acted in the 
early period of our history was very different from that which 
actuates it at present. " A modern high Churchman has been 
taught from his youth to identify the Church and the Establish- 
ment to suppose that the respectability of the clergy is the 
result of their connexion and intercourse with the higher 
classes, and that in the event of any change which should 
render the clerical profession distasteful to the wealthy and 
well-connected, the Church must necessarily sink into insig- 
nificance. Such, however, was certainly not the case in the 
times now spoken of. The high-church party of the twelfth 
century endeavoured as much as possible to make common 
cause with the poor and the defenceless. Becket always speaks 
of the poor as ' Pauperes Christi :' and the condescension 
which his party practised towards them, both before and after 
his time, appears to us incredible." An instance of the patron- 
age which the Church afforded to the common people is dis- 
tinctly pointed at in the 16th article of the council of Clarendon ; 

1168.] PROCEEDINGS OF THE YEAR 1168. 129 

what patiently the delays which the appeal of 
the bishops and the legatine commission had 
interposed ; and now at the end of the year 1167, 
discovered that the intrigues of the king and 
cardinals had been so far successful, that the pope 
had interposed between his enemies and himself, 
and shielded them from the ecclesiastical sentence 
which he was prepared to launch against them. 
This suspension of the archbishop's powers was 
indeed based on a professed belief that an ar- 
rangement would speedily be effected between 
him and the king. That the pope was compelled 

which declares " that the sons of peasants ought not to be 
ordained without the consent of the lord of whose land they 
are acknowledged to be born the serfs. It is clear from hence, 
that the privileges of the Church, which made ordination equi- 
valent to emancipation, were exerted for the benefit of the 
lower orders : who were thus enabled to emerge from heredi- 
tary vassalage, and sometimes even to attain an elevation 
equal to that of the highest lay nobility. How extensively 
this system was acted on, may be inferred from a speech of 
Henry II. [Gervas. in Scrip. Hist. Ang. a Twysden, p. 1595], 
in which he complains bitterly of the monastic orders for ad- 
mitting as brothers such men as tanners and shoemakers, of 
whom not one ought even on a pressing necessity to be pro- 
moted to a bishopric or an abbacy." Froude. Thus the En- 
glish Church, which in the present day is censured by the peo- 
ple for arrogance and aristocratical overbearing, was in those 
days assailed by the nobles for identifying herself too much 
with the lower classes. Has this arisen from a change in the 
Church herself, or in the parties who at each period have cen- 
sured her ? 



to act with indecision throughout the whole 
of these tedious negociations, is too clear to admit 
of a doubt. Few men have probably extricated 
themselves from almost hopeless difficulties so 
successfully as Alexander III. The embers of 
the schism which had raged so hotly in the be- 
ginning of his pontificate were still unquenched, 
and he might still, not without reason, fear that 
the king of England would resent any decisive 
measures that might be taken against him. 

These motives led his holiness again to inter- 
pose delay ; at one moment to suspend the arch- 
bishop from all exercise of his powers, and at 
another, to restore them to him. This state of 
things remained all the year 1168, until some 
new legates were appointed. During the inter- 
val the archbishop wrote the following letters. 




" BEFORE your departure you were aware that we 
had sent a canon regular of St. John's to our 
lords the cardinals, with a copy of the pope's 
letter, in which he allowed them to absolve our 
excommunicates on their promising by oath to 
restore to us and to ours all that had been taken 


from us, failing which, they would again be 
placed under anathema as before. Afterwards, 
however, we sent those same letters to the car- 
dinals by the hands of Osbert, sub-deacon of the 
court, and received for reply through the canon 
before-mentioned, that the persons' excommuni- 
cated, whose names we had recited in the schedule, 
had obtained possession of our revenues by the 
king's command and authority, and that so long 
as they remained in his dominions, it was un- 
lawful to exercise ecclesiastical severity upon 
them. They added further, that from the odium 
which our very name creates in the king's feel- 
ings, neither themselves nor any other person 
dared to speak to him on our behalf, or to call 
upon him in any way to come to an arrange- 
ment on the subject. My lord Otto said also 
to the messenger in private, and I request you 
to keep it secret also from every body but the 
pope, and the most trustworthy of our friends, 
that his holiness would on no account give them 
any such instructions to the detriment of the 
king, whom they would take care not to offend, 
whilst they remained within his territories, either 
for the sake of the pope or of any other person. 
It is, therefore, not only desirable but absolutely 
necessary that you do your utmost with the pope 
to procure the recal of the cardinals, and that 
they be compelled by fear of censure to leave 



the king's dominions entirely. As regards the 
bishops of London and Salisbury, do not forget 
what we ordered you, but endeavour to accomplish 
it successfully. 

" We send you, by the bearer, the king's letter, 
written in our behalf, together with those of the 
cardinals, which they sent to us by the canon, 
and also my lord Otto's private letter, which 
we wish you to keep secret and to show to no- 
body but the pope. 

" In addition to the above, we have been told 
by somebody, that according to what William of 
Pavia hinted to the king, and perhaps to others, 
his majesty would never have adhered so strongly 
to the scheme of our translation, if he had not 
foreseen that it would be agreeable to the pope. 
But we would have our lord the pope and our 
other friends to know, and I request you to 
impress it firmly and constantly upon them, that 
we would suffer ourself to be put to death, as 
God, who is the searcher of hearts, well knows, 
rather than to be torn away alive from our 
mother, the Church of Canterbury, that has 
nursed us, and exalted us to our present state. 
Their attempts, therefore, are of no use, for such 
is the settled purpose of our mind. You may 
say, moreover, that if there were no other cause 
than the spoliation of our Church and of other 
Churches in the land, by the hand of that man, 


we would rather, God knows, die any kind of 
death, than live in dishonour, or that he should 
escape without receiving from us the punishment, 
which, unless he repent, will be his due." 



" THE consolation which your letters have given 
us is very great : they are a proof that you are 
in good health, which we ardently desire : they 
combine elegance of style, with prudence and 
with sincere friendship, whilst every sentence 
breathes love to God and regard to virtue, which 
might inspire not only the lukewarm, but even 
those whose breasts are frozen to feelings of piety. 
It is evident from them also, that neither the 
caprice of fortune, nor distance of place, nor 
length of time, can destroy or even weaken that 
charity which streams of water are unable to 
quench. You have used your influence for us, 
and that powerfully, with my lord William of 
Pavia, your friend, and I hope you have not done 
so in vain. If his power had equalled his will, 
he would have been a thorn in my eye and an 
arrow in my side, to mortify the souls which 
do not die, and to vivify those which cannot 
live. May God forgive him and his associates, 


that on the last day, our blood and that of our 
fellows in exile, yea, the blood of the Church 
itself, may not be required at their hands, because 
they have furnished horns to the sinful, and, as 
far as was in their power, exposed the law to 
be profaned by the Gentiles and trodden under- 
foot. But why do we revive this subject, save 
that you may sympathize with the Church, and 
give us the benefit of your intercession both be- 
fore God and the Roman Church, whenever an 
opportunity shall occur? There is a testimony 
against those men greater than that of John, for 
the deeds which they do bear testimony against 
them. The Church, indeed, shall be set free, 
and we will willingly endure exile so long as it 
shall please God, exposed to all the winds of 
heaven, together with our wretched exiles, one 
of whom is the bearer of the present letter, our 
sister's son, whom we confide to your protection 
whenever he may be in need of it, and we do so 
the more from our confidence in your friendship, 
giving thanks to God, that He has thought us 
worthy to suffer punishment." 

1168.] BECKET TO THE POPE. 135 




" WE send back to your holiness the bearer of 
the present, who will faithfully and accurately 
explain to you the unfortunate nature of his 
business, and how he and his brothers have been 
dealt with in England in consequence of your 
letters. Unless the Divine clemency stretch forth 
its hand to raise them up by your agency, it is 
all over with the fortunes of their order. May 
it please you then to let him and his brothers 
experience the benefit of our intercession, for 
the unjust vexations which they have suffered, 
render them fitting objects of your commiseration. 
And I pray you, my lord, to consider attentively 
into what irremediable confusion the English 
Church has been thrown, and what evils have 
resulted to every class of persons living in that 
kingdom, from that pernicious indulgence which 
the king boasts he has obtained of the court, by 
the intervention of certain of his friends, who 
show more regard to princes than to their God. 


Though this indulgence may easily be revoked, 
yet the pernicious precedent has been set, and 
will encourage his successors to similar acts of 
daring, from a certainty of being able, by some 
means or other, to escape punishment. 

" We have one miserable source of consolation 
in all this, if you will allow me to say so : that 
the Roman Church takes this mode of rewarding 
its friends and faithful children. May God com- 
fort her better than she provides for herself : may 
he comfort the Church of England and us, and 
all our wretched ones. I know what grieves me 
most ; it is this ; that crime can never be blotted 
out or become obsolete by time : there is no for- 
getfulness for sin, but evil deeds become at last 
evil examples. God bless your holiness, and give 
you health, and may He, if it so please Him, 
deign to raise us from our misery, that we may 
at least live, whereas at present our life is but a 
slow death, and God knows how undeservedly !" 

Among those who exerted themselves to bring 
the king and the archbishop to a conference, and 
so to expedite the restoration of the exiles, was 
John, bishop of Poitiers, formerly treasurer of 
York. This prelate had been more compliant 
than Becket, and so escaped the effects of king 
Henry's anger; but, though he had not fortitude 
enough to suffer for the Church, his sympathy 
was strongly enlisted throughout in the arch- 


bishop's cause; and in his present exertions, to 
bring about an interview between the king and 
Becket, his zeal somewhat outran discretion, as 
would appear by the following letter, which the 
archbishop sent him in reply, and which is the 
only letter we have remaining addressed by 
Becket to the bishop of Poitiers. 



" DEAREST friend, why have you dealt with me 
thus ? Why have you strangled both me and your- 
self? You have given that man a handle for 
disparaging both of us and of maligning me. 
The animal is greedy of glory, and already too 
prone to destroy the Church ; and now he will 
have it published in the streets and proclaimed 
in the face of the Church, that we have yielded 
unconditionally to his wishes, without mentioning 
God's honour or our own order, though it is 
less than ever proper to pass these over, when 
by doing so we bring confusion and ignominy 
on the Church, which is clear and manifest 

" If you will only recollect yourself, we parted 
at Estampes on a very different understanding 
from this. When we took leave of one another, 
I told you to insist on this condition only, that 


the man should restore us his favour according 
to our lord the pope's instructions, and give us 
back our Church in free possession. You asked 
me whether I would have a day appointed for 
an interview if he should wish to see me, and I 
replied, that I would have no day fixed till he 
should obey the pope's mandate, but that as soon 
as he had done that, we could meet him on any 
day that he might appoint, and do all that lay 
in our power, saving God's honour and our own 
order. It was on this footing, my dear friend, 
that we parted. To this understanding you ought 
to have adhered, for no one knows better than 
you, that we do not dare to go one step beyond 
this, consistently with our duty to our God. I 
would have you to know, therefore, my soul's 
half, that it is not our intention, nor is it safe, 
to have a day fixed on, or to go to a conference 
until he shall have received the pope's mandate, 
and further, if so please him, until he shall have 
put it in execution; lest perchance, which God 
forbid, if we give occasion for delay, the failure 
of our lord the pope's mandate may be imputed 
to us ; which would clearly be against our in- 
terests. Farewell ever ! " 



" You have been ordered by our lord the pope 
to demand of the king that he shall restore to 
us our Church and his own favour. Now we 
were ready, as you have seen, to place ourselves, 
to the honour of God and himself, at the mercy 
of God and his majesty. This form did not 
please him, unless we bound ourselves to observe 
the constitutions, which our predecessors observed 
towards his. We, therefore, promised that we 
would observe them willingly, saving our own 
order, and would readily do all that was con- 
sistent with our duty to God, in order to recover 
his favour. But he would not consent to this, 
unless we should promise to observe the con- 
stitutions unconditionally. This, indeed, was 
altogether impossible, because some of those con- 
stitutions have now been condemned by the 
apostolic see. We are, however, ready, if it shall 
seem good to his majesty, to return to our Church 
according to the apostolic mandate, and to the 
king's favour. Remember also, that though our 
lord the pope has ordered you, in virtue of your 
obedience, to execute his mandate, he has given 
no orders that we should be bound to make any 


promises. We, therefore, entreat your holinesses 
not to hesitate, but to endeavour, like righteous 
men, to pay obedience to the pope's orders." 

By the exertions of the pope's envoys, aided by 
the king of France, it was at length arranged that 
Henry should admit the archbishop to a con- 
ference at Montmirail, where the two kings were 
to meet on other political matters unconnected 
with the present subject. It is however impor- 
tant to notice, as will appear more fully in the 
result of the conference, that the English king 
came to this meeting with the intention of ob- 
taining peace at almost any price. Whatever 
advantages the king of France might derive from 
this, would have the natural effect of making him 
more lukewarm in favour of the archbishop, whose 
cause he had hitherto supported, if not altogether, 
yet certainly in a great measure, from jealousy 
of the great and daily increasing influence of his 
rival. An impartial judge of human nature can- 
not conceal from himself this truth ; but it would 
be unfair to deprive Louis of the credit, which is 
undoubtedly his due, of having faithfully sup- 
ported the archbishop through a long period of 
suffering; though there are few instances on 
record of the path of honour coinciding so identi- 
cally with that of interest. The interview at 
Montmirail interrupted this harmony between 
the archbishop and his royal patron, though the 


interruption was but momentary, and served to 
reunite the two speedily afterwards in a bond still 
stronger than before. The archbishop's secretary 
and faithful chronicler, Herbert de Bosham, has 
left a minute account of all that occurred at the 
conference 4 , which took place on the day of Epi- 
phany, 1169, his narrative runs as follows: 

"The advice of all parties was that the arch- 
bishop should submit the whole question to the 
king's mercy, and place himself in his majesty's 
hands unconditionally. Now he had already, at 
the instance and by the advice of the mediators, 
avowed in the presence of all of them, that he 
would do this, 'saving God's honour;' but those 
of the mediators who were most intimate with 
him, men of experience in counsel, and on whom 
the archbishop placed the greatest confidence, 
urged him to omit the words ' saving the honour 
of God,' because they said that the king would 
be scandalized thereby. It was, therefore, the 
opinion of all that he should submit the whole 
question to the will and pleasure of the king, and 
so gratify his majesty by giving him honour be- 
fore the meeting ; at this the king would be 

4 The pope's envoys, Simon prior of Montdieu, and Engel- 
bert prior of Val St. Pierre, seem to have taken no prominent 
part in the business of the conference, though both they and 
their associate, Bernard de Corilo, had by their mediation 
brought about the meeting. 


pleased, and would restore him his favour and 
make peace with him. Now this phrase which 
was added about the king's constitutions was 
similar to that which had been used when we 
were still in England. The archbishop had there 
said that he would observe the king's constitu- 
tions ' saving his own order,' as wehave related it 
above in our history. And now a similar phrase 
was added. In England it ran, 'saving our 
order,' it was now ' saving God's honour.' And 
the arguments and speeches that were made 
against the former were now used over again to 
induce the archbishop to omit the latter. Indeed, 
he would at the present meeting have retained the 
same form which he had used in England, if he 
had not known that the king would be offended 
at it ; he therefore adopted the second phrase, at 
which the king, as we shall presently shew, was 
offended as much as he was before. However, 
not to multiply words, he was so urged and 
drawn now one way, and now the other, that 
he seemed at last to be persuaded. And when 
he spoke a few words with his professors apart, 
as long as the time would permit, and told them 
what the mediators had said, all their wisdom 
seemed to fail them : for on the one hand they 
anticipated peace and the king's favour which 
they so much desired : on the other hand it 
would be not only disgraceful but irreligious and 


humiliating- to the Church if the archbishop 
should submit himself and the whole question, 
^ which was of an ecclesiastical nature, to the will 
of a layman, without any reservation of God's 
honour, particularly too, as this was the very 
point on which the whole dispute had turned. 
Yet the mediators, among whom were men of the 
highest character for religion, men of experience, 
and on whom the archbishop could rely, having 
in view the advantage of the Church and the 
interests of all of us, as they confidently antici- 
pated, used all their exertions to persuade him to 
omit this reservation. Our professors, therefore, 
one and all, hesitated, and were afraid to advise 
him, lest the failure of the peace and the injury 
to the Church which would ensue, should be 
thrown on their shoulders. They were all silent 
therefore ; and all their wisdom was baffled. 
Some of them, 5 indeed, murmured in a low voice 
that it was not safe in such a case to omit all 
mention of God's honour and the liberties of the 
Church for the sake of man's favour; which 
would be the same, they said, as putting a candle 
under a bushel, as we have stated above, when 
the other phrase, ' saving our order,' was for the 

sake of peace withdrawn in England 

Whilst we were thus hesitating and thinking 

8 Herbert's pertinacious disposition leads us to suspect that 
he mav have been one of these. 


what to do, the mediators, many of whom were 
influential 6 men, and most intimate with the 
archbishop, so plied him with their advice, and 
urged him now on the one side, and now on the 
other, that at last they thought he was persuaded 
to follow their counsel. 

" Now the two kings were sitting together, and 
waiting to see what would be done; and when the 
mediators and others were escorting the archbishop 
into their presence, the disciple who wrote this 
narrative pushed himself, though with great diffi- 
culty, through the crowd, and whispered a few 
words hastily, for there was not time to say much, 
into his patron's ear, 'Take care, my lord, and 
walk warily : I tell you truly and conscientiously, 
that if you suppress those words, 'saving God's 
honour,' as you formerly suppressed the corres- 
ponding phrase, ' saving your own order ' in Eng- 
land, your sorrow will again be renewed upon 
you, and the more bitterly, because though you 
have already suffered for it, yet it has not taught 
you wisdom.' 

B " The archbishops of Rheims, Sens, and Rouen, the king 
of France, the bishops, and the abbat of Montdieu of the Car- 
thusian order, urged him not to speak of the constitutions of 
Clarendon : ' What necessity is there," they said, ' to mention 
them ? You have already condemned them by your own 
writing, on the pope's authority, and have absolved all who 
had sworn to observe them from their obligation." " FITZ- 


"At these words he turned round and looked 
me in the face, but was unable to answer me for 
the crowd who thronged him, and tried to speak 
to him : and so he was led into the presence of 
the two kings. He knew that humility will 
soften the hardest heart, and is a virtue which 
beyond all others is agreeable to the high and 
mighty ; wherefore at the first sight of the king 
he rushed forward and threw himself at his ma- 
jesty's feet. He was for the sake of honour ac- 
companied by the son of the great and noble 
Count Theobald, namely, the venerable and ex- 
cellent prelate William, now archbishop of Sens, 
for Hugh of blessed memory, whom we have 
before mentioned as archbishop of that city when 
we first went to live there, was now dead. The 
king seeing the archbishop on his knees before 
him, immediately caught him by the hand and 
made him rise. 

" The archbishop, standing up in the presence 
of the kings, began humbly to entreat the royal 
mercy on the English Church, which was com- 
mitted to so unworthy a sinner as himself, and in 
the beginning of his speech, accused himself, as 
every just man does, ascribing to his own demerits 
the troubles and afflictions which she had suffered. 
At the conclusion of his address he added, ' On 
the whole subject, therefore, which lies between 
us, my lord the king, I throw myself on your 



mercy and on your pleasure, here in presence of 
our lord the king of France and of the arch- 
bishops, princes, and others who stand round us ' 
but here he added what neither the king, nor 
the mediators, nor even his own friends antici- 

. . . . When he added these words, the 
king was scandalized, and burst into rage against 
the archbishop, assailing him with much con- 
tumely and reproach, abusing him as proud, vain, 
and entirely forgetful of the royal munificence 
towards him, and ungrateful for all his favours. 
And because the character of ' our master,' as we 
have stated in the beginning of this history, even 
from his youth, was so pure that his greatest and 
most mendacious enemies feared to bring a, false 
charge against him, he could find no other point 
on which to accuse him but this, that when he 
was chancellor, he received oaths of allegiance from 
the king's subjects on both sides of the sea, in order, 
as he said, to disinherit his lord and sovereign, 
who had conferred so many favours on him, and 
to become king in his stead. 'It was for the 
same reason,' the king added, ' that he lived so 
splendidly, and acted with so much munificence 
in his chancellorship.' 

"The archbishop heard all this patiently, and 
without showing the least sign of perturbation, an- 
swered the king's abuse with humility and modesty, 


in terms neither too unbending nor too submissive. 
When he had replied to all the other points of 
the king's speech, and came to the charge about 
his chancellorship, he said, ' My lord, you accuse 
me for what I did when I was chancellor ; but it 
is your anger which leads you thus to censure as 
a fault, what" ought to have earned for me your 
majesty's endless gratitude. It does not beseem 
me, nor is it necessary at present, to revive, for 
the sake of my own glory, what I then did in 
your service, or the fidelity with which I served 
you. Our lord the king of France here knows it ; 
all who stand round know it; the whole world 
knows it : my deeds themselves testify for me, 
and declare how I behaved in that office, whilst 
I was still in your majesty's court, to promote 
your advantage and your honour. It would be 
degrading and unbecoming in me to revive the 
advantage which I rendered by my services, or to 
taunt you with them, for the world saw it and 
knows it to be true.' 

" The king would hear no more, but taking the 
words out of his mouth, he said to the king of 
France, ' Hear, my lord, if you please, how 
foolishly, and vainly, this man deserted his 
Church, though neither I nor any other person 
drove him out of the kingdom, but himself fled 
away privately by night; and now he tells you 
that his cause is that of the Church, and that he 

L 2 


is suffering for justice's sake ; and by this showing 
he deceives many, and those men of influence. 
I have always been willing, as I am at present, 
to allow him to rule the Church, over which he 
presides, with as much liberty as any of the saints 
his predecessors held it or governed it. 

" * But take notice, if you please, my lord,' con- 
tinued Henry, addressing the king of France, 
* whatever his lordship of Canterbury disapproves, 
he will say is contrary to God's honour, and so he 
will on all occasions get the advantage of me ; but 
that I may not be thought to despise God's 
honour, I will make this proposition to him. 
There have been many kings of England before 
me, some of greater and some of less power than 
I. There have also been many good and holy 
archbishops of Canterbury before him. Now let 
him behave towards me as the most holy of his 
predecessors behaved towards the least of mine, 
and I am satisfied.' All present exclaimed aloud, 
' The king humbles himself enough 7 !' 

" The .king of France, as if struck by what the 
English king said about the archbishop's prede- 
cessors, and so inclining in his majesty's favour, 
said to the archbishop, ' My lord archbishop, do 
you wish to be more than a saint?' And this 
speech, which was uttered rather insultingly by 

7 This paragraph is from Alan of Tewkesbury. 


the French king, gave no little pleasure to the 
king of England and his party, whose sole wish 
was to justify their own cause and to disparage 
ours in the eyes of the French king, that so his 
good- will, which by God's grace had so long be- 
friended us and been our sole refuge, might be 
alienated from us. 

" But the archbishop did not appear to be in the 
least moved or disturbed, though both the kings 
were against him, for he replied with composure 
and equanimity, that he was ready to resume the 
charge of his Church with all its liberties, such as 
the holy men his predecessors had enjoyed, but 
would not admit any fresh ones passed with a 
view to the Church's detriment, and would reject 
and condemn them as being contrary to the insti- 
tutes of the holy Fathers. ' It is true,' continued 
he, ' that there have been archbishops before me, 
holier and greater than I, every one of whom ex- 
tirpated some of the abuses in the Church, but 
if they had corrected all, I should not now be 
exposed to this hot and fiery trial V He then 
began to apologise for his flight, which he had 
effected by night without the knowledge of the 
king, but the mediators of the peace, who, as we 
have said, were many, and men of great respect- 
ability, justly considering that this subject would 

8 This sentence is from Alan. 


be much more likely to exasperate the king than 
accelerate the peace, drew the archbishop aside, 
and began again to urge him as before, crying 
out, * Give the king due honour, and suppress that 
phrase which offends him; submit yourself un- 
conditionally to his will and pleasure ; now or 
never is the time for a reconciliation, when the 
king and nobles are present, and all wish for 
peace but yourself.' The same arguments were 
used by the other nobles and bishops who were 
present, both French, English, Normans, Bretons, 
and Poitevans, as also by certain men of the 
religious order 9 who had been deputed by the 
pope to attend the meeting especially on our be- 
half. They all urged him to suppress that little 
word, ' saving God's honour,' that peace might 
be obtained both for himself and his followers in 
the presence of both the kings and their nobles. 

"If you had then seen the archbishop, you 
would have thought him a victim standing before 
the executioners, whose tongues were their wea- 
pons, all of whom sought to suppress God's 
honour, yet thinking that in this they were do- 
ing Him service. Afterwards, however, as will 
be shown, they acknowledged themselves to have 
been circumvented and deceived. But let us now 

9 Simon, Engelbert, and Bernard de Corilo. 


" The archbishop standing, as we have said, 
turned now to one, now to another, assuring them 
that he would do as they wished him, as far as 
was consistent with God's honour : but that it did 
not become a priest and a bishop to submit him- 
self in any other way to the will of the men of 
this world, especially in a question which con- 
cerned the liberties of the Church ; and that this 
ought to be sufficient, and indeed was more than 
sufficient, if the peace of the Church did not war- 
rant his doing it. 

" The king, as we have mentioned above, was 
offended in England at the phrase 'saving 
his order,' and the archbishop for the sake of 
peace withdrew it, by the advice of several, 
and by doing so he did not recover the king's 
favour, but suffered from it much more severely 
than before. He therefore feared that the same 
would again happen, and stood firm in the midst 
of all their solicitations like a city founded upon 
a rock 

" The mediators of peace, therefore, seeing him 
firm and inflexible, departed from him and he 
was left alone. The nobles of both kingdoms 
rose up, imputing the failure of the negotiation to 
the arrogance of the archbishop ; and one of the 
counts who were present said, that as he set him- 
self in opposition to the will of both kingdoms, 
he was unworthy of the protection of either : ' He 


is rejected by England, let him find no counte- 
nance or support in France * !" 

Night now approaching put an end to the con- 
ference, and the kings mounting their horses, rode 
off in haste without saluting the archbishop or 
waiting to be saluted by him. The king of Eng- 
land, as they were riding away, continued still to 
vent abuse on the archbishop, though they had 
now parted; amongst other things, he said that 
he was now fully avenged on the traitor. The 
courtiers also, and the mediators of the peace, 
censured the archbishop to his face as they were 
returning from the place of meeting, saying that 
he had always been a proud man and wise in his 
own eyes, and always endeavouring to gratify his 
own will, and to have his own opinion : they 
added, moreover, that it was a great pity he had 
ever been raised to be a ruler of the Church, 
which was already almost ruined through him, 
and would very soon be ruined entirely. 

But the archbishop put a restraint upon his 
tongue, and though he was thus assailed and re- 
proached by all around him, yet he appeared as 
if he did not hear them, with one exception how- 
ever : for when his friend John bishop of Poitiers, 
who was by birth an Englishman, reproached him 
with bringing destruction upon the Church, he 

1 This sentence is from Alan. The quotation from Herbert 
ends here. 


replied mildly and modestly, " Nay, brother, take 
care that the Church is not destroyed by you : 
for by God's grace she will never be destroyed by 

The clerks who had attended the conference 
in their master's company, were disappointed, as 
was natural, at its failure ; for they had been 
four years in exile, and though their fortitude in 
enduring their bitter fortune had hitherto been 
most exemplary, yet now that the cause of the 
failure seemed to be of so trivial a nature, it was 
hardly to be expected that all of them would en- 
dure it with equanimity. One of them, whose 
name was Henry de Hocton (or Houghton), was 
riding immediately in front of the archbishop, 
when his horse made a false step and stumbled. 
" Come up," said the rider, " saving the honour 
of God and the Church and my own order!" 
The archbishop heard what he said, and was 
vexed, but remained silent. 

At this moment the loquacious Herbert, who 
probably had no small share in encouraging the 
archbishop to persevere in his resistance to the 
king, by the advice which he whispered in his ear 
as they were going to the conference, again ap- 
proached to his master's side ; " God be praised, my 
lord," said he, " that through all the worriment to 
which you have this day been exposed, you have 
been sustained by the Lord, and gone through the 


whole of it without flinching, and have not suf- 
fered the tongue, that slippery member, to betray 
you into any thing subversive of God's honour or 
disrespectful to his majesty. There is no doubt 
that the Most High will honour you even yet, in 
return for the honour which you have this day 
showed to Him ! " 

Thus ended the conference at Montmirail ; 
which so far from healing, rather widened the 
breach between Becket and the king, and seemed 
likely to deprive him moreover of the French 
king's protection, which had hitherto been his 
only support. 



THE conference, of which the particulars are re- 
corded in the last chapter, was held in a large 
plain not far from the castle of Montmirail, be- 
tween Chartres and Leman. The archbishop's 
party had come thither from Sens under the pro- 
tection of the French king, and were lodged to- 
gether with the court of his benefactor in the 
castle of Montmirail. The exiles arrived at their 


quarters on the evening of the day of meeting, 
some time before the king of France, who had 
probably accompanied the English monarch part 
of the way on his return. When Louis arrived, 
he did not call at the archbishop's lodgings, as 
had been his custom. But it must not be con- 
cealed that there was now a much better under- 
standing between the rival kings, and the strong 
medium of self-interest, which drew Louis for the 
moment towards his former rival, might now for- 
tunately be concealed under fancied disapproba- 
tion at Becket's unyielding conduct. At an early 
hour on the following morning the exiles departed 
from the castle, without bidding farewell to the 
French king, who was fatigued by the events of 
the preceding day, and had not yet left his bed. 
They travelled with all possible speed towards 
Chartres : on their way thither the archbishop con- 
soled his companions for the ill-success which 
they had met with, and on their arrival at Char- 
tres, where they spent the night, the whole party 
had recovered their former equanimity, The 
news, however, of what had happened at the con- 
ference flew before them, and the country people 
eagerly enquired who they were, as they passed 
rapidly along. When they were informed that it 
was the archbishop and his party, they testified 
their approbation in such a way, that the horse- 
men could not but understand their meaning. 


The Church was in fact universally popular at this 
period, and the proscribed archbishop was often 
gratified by the testimony of approbation which 
he invariably received during his exile from the 
French peasantry. Applause is naturally agree- 
able to the human mind, and it perhaps contri- 
buted not a little to remove the discontent with 
which some of the party had set out from Mont- 

They left Chartres on the following morning, 
and after two more days arrived at Sens : where 
they resumed their tranquil mode of life, and 
again turned their attention to those literary pur- 
suits, which for four years had been almost their 
only occupation. 

But before many days had passed over their 
heads, this calm was disturbed by the sudden 
intelligence that the king of England had not 
only failed in all his engagements, and broken 
the treaty which he had made, under the French 
king's sanction, with the Bretons and Poitevins, 
but had accompanied this breach of faith with 
acts of violence and rapine. One of the nobles 
of Poitou, named Robert de Silli, was among 
the sufferers. This statement is no doubt too 
vague to enable us to form a just opinion of the 
renewed quarrel between the two kings, but the 
change which it produced in Becket's prospects 
was sudden and decisive. The French king set 

1169.] BREACH OF THE TRUCE. 157 

out immediately for Sens to see the archbishop. 
A scene of a somewhat dramatic character is said 
to have taken place between them. 

The party at St. Columba's were discussing the 
events which had lately happened, and the failure 
of their journey to Montmirail. They had also 
another subject for conversation, in the supposed 
alienation and continued silence of the French 
king. The archbishop smiling at the different 
suggestions that were offered, said, "I am the 
only one amongst you whom king Henry wishes 
to injure, and if I go away, no one will impede 
or harm you : do not be afraid." " It is for you 
that we take thought," replied they, " because we 
do not see where you can find refuge; and 
though you are so high in dignity, yet all your 
friends have deserted you." "Then do not 
care for me," said he, "I commend my cause 
to God, who is very well able to protect me. 
Though both England and France are closed 
against me, I shall not be undone. I will not 
apply to those Roman robbers, for they do no- 
thing but plunder the needy without compunction. 
I will adopt another mode of action. It is said 
that the people who live on the banks of the 
Arar in Burgundy, as far as the borders of Pro- 
vence, are more liberal. I will take only one 
companion with me, and we will go amongst 
those people on foot, and they will assuredly have 


compassion on us." At that moment an officer 
appeared from the French king, inviting the 
archbishop to an interview. " He means to turn 
us out of his kingdom," said one of those who 
were present. " Do not forebode ill," said the 
archbishop, " you are not a prophet, nor a son of 
the prophets." 

When they came to the king's lodgings, they 
found his majesty sitting alone, and evidently 
suffering from vexation. On the archbishop's 
entering the room, the king rose and threw him- 
self on his knees before him, exclaiming, " Forgive 
me, my father, forgive me ; you were the only 
wise man among us. We were, all of us, blinded 
and besotted, and we advised you to make God's 
honour submit to the will of a man. I repent of 
it, my father, and entreat you to bestow on me 
your absolution for my offence. I commit myself 
and my kingdom from this moment to your keep- 
ing, and will support you to the best of my power, 
and be guided by your advice." The archbishop 
freely forgave the king, and absolved him from 
his supposed offence. 

They then consulted together on the best mode 
of renewing their exertions to obtain peace, and 
to remedy the failure of their negociations at 
Montmirail. After much deliberation it was de- 
termined that the king, the principal of his clergy, 
and those who had been sent by the pope to 


mediate between the parties, should address 
letters immediately to the sovereign pontiff, in- 
forming him of the ill success of their mediation, 
which they attributed to king Henry's obstinacy, 
and calling on his holiness to interfere in Becket's 
favour still more powerfully than before, 

Another step, however, remained to be taken, 
which had already received the sanction of the 
apostolic pontiff. His envoys, Simon and Engel- 
bert, delivered the second of the pope's letters to 
king Henry, no longer inviting him, as before, 
to a reconciliation, but threatening him with the 
vengeance of the holy father if he should still 
persist in not listening to his exhortations. Some 
few of the letters which were written at this 
time have been preserved, and will serve to eluci- 
date the narrative up to the point at which it 
has now arrived. 



" IF the cause of our exile, holy father, had not 
been stated to you in dark colours by our ene- 
mies, we have no doubt that the king of England 
would not so long have abused your patience 
with impunity. But lo ! the truth has at last 
come out, and our persecutor's designs, by God's 


grace, are revealed. For lately, when we im- 
plored his mercy, on our knees, in the presence 
of his most Christian majesty, his archbishops, 
bishops, counts and nobles, he declared that he 
only required of us that we should observe the 
constitutions of his kingdom, which our ancestors 
had observed towards his, and that I should pro- 
mise this on the word of a priest and bishop, as 
our messengers will faithfully explain to you. 
May it please your holiness, therefore, to listen 
to our faithful servants, who have shared with 
us in our exile, who were present and heard all 
that passed, for the English Church is now on 
its last legs, unless the hand of God and your 
hand apply a speedy remedy. The king of Eng- 
land boasts that you have conferred on him a 
privilege, by which he is to be freed from all 
ecclesiastical censure from us until we return to 
our Church and be reconciled towards him. It 
is a thing unheard of amongst us, that a bishop 
should be obliged to bind himself towards a 
secular prince, to observe anything else besides 
what is contained in the oath of allegiance. We 
fear, therefore, though, by God's grace, our fears 
will be groundless, lest an additional obligation 
exacted from us may be a pernicious example 
to other princes, involving not only our contem- 
poraries but our successors. Indeed, it is plain, 
that if the required constitutions shall be conceded, 


the authority of the holy see in England will 
become little, or perhaps nothing. This indeed, 
as is evident from the writings and accounts of 
our forefathers, would long ago have happened, 
if the Church of Canterbury had not interposed 
itself to resist princes on behalf of the Church 
and her liberties. For there has seldom been 
a ruler of that Church who has not drawn the 
sword for righteousness' sake, and suffered exile 
or proscription. It is wonderful, therefore, and 
altogether astonishing, that he who now persecutes 
the apostolic see even more than us, should boast 
that he has found partizans in such a cause even 
at your own court. Nor need you fear that he 
will pass over to the schismatics, for Christ has 
so humbled him by the hand of His faithful 
servant, the French king, that he cannot depart 
from doing what he wishes." 



" ACCORDING to your holiness's instructions, we 
delivered your admonitory letters to the king 
of England, and exhorted him to the utmost of 
our power to listen to what was therein contained, 
and make peace with his lordship of Canterbury, 



and restore him to his Church, with permission 
to rule it in freedom as before. We waited long 
and patiently, hoping that God would soften his 
heart. But failing in this, we then delivered to 
him your second letter, not of admonition, but 
of commination, which he made much difficulty 
about receiving, but he was at last prevailed on 
to do so, at the instance both of ourselves and the 
other men of influence who were present; and 
after much other conversation, which we forbear 
to mention, he said as follows, ' I did not expel 
the archbishop, and yet if he will do as he ought 
towards me and observe my constitutions, I will, 
out of regard for my lord the pope, make peace 
with him, and allow him to return.' And after 
many other different remarks, he said that he 
would call together the English bishops and 
comply with their advice, but he did not appoint 
any day, nor did we get anything from him on 
which we can rely, respecting the restoration of 
the archbishop and the execution of your in- 
structions. For he constantly varied his answer ; 
and when we asked him if the archbishop might 
return to his see and be at peace, he replied that 
the archbishop should never return till he pro- 
mised to act towards his sovereign as he ought, 
and as others had acted. We then asked him 
to grant letters patent, stating his answer, because 
it was our duty to report it to you, which we had 

1169.] TO THE POPE. 163 

not yet done, because he changed his answer so 
often. To this, however, he would not consent. 
The archbishop, on the other hand, replied when we 
informed him of this, that he was ready to do all 
that he was bound to do, and to observe all that 
his predecessors had done, saving his own order, 
but that -without the authority of the pope he 
could not promise to enter upon new obligations, 
* except with a reservation of his own order,' 
because such a precedent would be injurious, and 
because you had prohibited him from doing so. 
He added also, that you had censured him for 
not having submitted to be put to death rather 
than comply, except with a reservation of his 
order. ' But,' said he, ' if the king will restore 
to me his favour, and allow me to resume peace- 
able possession of my Church, with everything 
that has been taken from it, I will comply with 
his wishes, and serve him to the best of my 
ability.' May it please your holiness, therefore, 
to succour the Church in her distress : for if you 
only persevere, we are persuaded peace will soon 
be made. And as the brothers of Grammont 
never write letters, we certify that in all this we 
have the concurrence of our brother and associate, 
Bernard, who publicly gave his consent, and re- 
quested that others would write to you, who were 
not under the same obligation as he is." 

M 2 




" THE riches of your long-suffering and the abun- 
dance of God's goodness, have hitherto been 
treated by the king of England with contempt, 
whilst he is ignorant, or pretends to be so, that 
your patience has for its end only to invite him 
to repentance. He is deaf to entreaties and to 
admonitions, boasting, to the dishonour of the apos- 
tolic see, and to the reproach of your blessed 
name, that you have granted him a privilege, by 
which he will be safe from us as long as he 
pleases, notwithstanding all the persecutions with 
which he may assail us and the Church of Can- 
terbury. And the better to persuade mankind 
of so incredible an assertion, he is exhibiting all 
over Germany, France, and England, rescripts of 
letters which you have furnished him with against 
us, and woe is me that I should say so, against 
your ownself. Thus he requites your favour 
and kindness, so that his last deeds are worse 
than the former. But God has at last brought 
to light what I wish you had believed at first, 
for the justice of our cause and the real nature 
of his intentions have been declared in the face 
of the world. 

" For a short time since, at the second con- 

1169.] BECKET TO THE POPE. 165 

ference, in the hearing of his most Christian 
majesty and of all present on both sides, after 
receiving your letters comminatory, which he had 
often rejected, and then scarcely accepted, he 
owned that what he requires at our hands is 
nothing else than the observance of his usages, 
to which, as your holiness has seen and may re- 
member, God's law and the sacred canons are 
evidently and altogether opposed. 

" At the instance of the most Christian king, 
and of the holy men whom your holiness has 
sent, he was indeed prevailed on to drop the 
mention of usages ; but he changed the word 
without changing his meaning ; requiring that 
we should promise, on the word of truth, simply 
and absolutely, to act as our predecessors had 
acted. This, as he said, was the only way for 
us to obtain our Church and peace in his domi- 
nions ; but that even then we should not have his 
favour ; which he added, because he conceives 
that by your holiness's rescript our authority is 
suspended till such time as his favour is re- 
stored us. 

" On this proposal being laid before us by the 
holy men, Simon, prior of Montdieu, and brother 
Bernard, we answered, * that we could not square 
our conscience by the acts of our predecessors ; 
though indeed we know, from authentic docu- 
ments, that some of them have suffered banish- 


ment in a like cause ; however, that we were 
prepared to yield him every service, even more 
than our predecessors had done, saving our order ; 
but that new obligations, unknown to the Church, 
and such as our predecessors were never bound 
by, ought not to be undertaken by us ; first, be- 
cause it was bad as a precedent ; secondly, be- 
cause your holiness's self, when in the city of 
Sens, absolved me from the observance of those 
usages hateful to God and the Church, and from 
the pledge which force and fear had extorted 
from me, in a special manner ; and after a grave 
rebuke, which, by God's grace, shall never pass 
from my mind, prohibited me from ever again 
obliging myself to any one in a like cause, except 
saving God's honour and my order.' You added, 
too, if you are pleased to recollect, that not even 
to save his life should a bishop bind himself, 
except saving God's honour and his order. For 
these reasons we made our promise to the holy 
men, ' that if the king would fulfil your holiness's 
mandate, by restoring us his favour and peace, 
and our Church, and what he had taken from 
ourself and ours, then we would endeavour with 
our whole might, saving God's honour and our 
order, to serve himself and his children ;' but we 
stated, 'that, without authority from your holi- 
ness, we might not make changes in a formula 
which the whole Western Church acknowledges, 

1169.] BECKET TO THE POPE. 167 

and which is expressed even in those very re- 
probate usages for which we are banished. For 
there it is contained, that before consecration, 
bishops elect shall swear fealty to the king con- 
cerning life and limb, and earthly honour, saving 
their order.' Why is it then that we alone are 
to be compelled by this captious pledge which 
is exacted from us, to drop all mention of God's 
honour and the indemnity of our order ? What 
Christian ever made such a demand on Chris- 

" He has eluded the solicitations of the holy 
men by shifting his answers, and, after much 
saying and unsaying, has left them, regretting 
the toils and expense which have availed nothing. 
He did indeed pretend that he would summon 
the English bishops and consult them ; but in 
reality what he is waiting for is the return of his 
envoys from your holiness. For, as I learn from 
those who may be credited, they boast that, as 
they did on a former occasion, they will obtain 
from your holiness what the king desires, either 
by promises or threats. I cannot however be- 
lieve, that the apostolic see will compel any one 
to suppress God's honour, or prohibit his mention- 
ing the safety of his order. And truly, if your 
holiness dismisses them, as they deserve, you 
will re-establish Church liberty, and the fair fame 
of the apostolic see. May it please you to deal 


manfully ; for most undoubtedly, if it is your 
pleasure to put the wicked in fear, you will 
restore peace to the Church and a perishing soul 
to God. You have already seen what gentleness 
can effect ; now essay the other method. In the 
severity of justice you will most assuredly tri- 
umph. Exact what we have been despoiled of, 
yea to the last farthing. Let it not get abroad 
among our contemporaries and posterity, that 
such rapine has escaped unpunished, and thus 
embolden himself and his successors to repeat 
it. We have also to request most earnestly, 
that if the malefactors whom we excommuni- 
cated venture into your holiness's presence, or 
send to you, you will not absolve them to our 
prejudice. If this had not been done on a for- 
mer occasion, the Church would have been at 
this day in the enjoyment of peace. 

" If he shall compel us, which, by God's grace, 
he shall slay us rather than we will consent to 
do, to submit to this obligation (for we have not 
forgotten the oath which we made to you and 
the Roman Church when we received the pall), 
he will by this precedent compel all the bishops 
and clergy to do as we have done. And other 
princes will have no difficulty in following his ex- 
ample. No knight or peasant in our country is 
required to do so much as he demands from us." 




" TRUTH may be overshadowed for a time, but 
cannot be destroyed, and light comes upon us 
the more agreeably after the darkness which 
previously annoyed us has been removed. I wish 
you could have been convinced long ago of that 
which is now clear from the testimony of our 
persecutor himself. For lately, in the presence 
of the most Christian king, his archbishops, bishops, 
counts, nobles, and all the others who were pre- 
sent, he publicly professed that the only cause 
of our exile was our unwillingness to observe the 
constitutions which our ancestors had observed to 
his. He also constantly added that he required 
nothing more of us than that we should promise 
this on the word of truth, without the condition, 
saving our order or the honour of God, or any 
other phrase which might be a protection to our 
own consciences. And because we will not pro- 
mise unconditional obedience to the constitutions, 
some of which nullify the authority of the holy 
see, and destroy the liberty of the Church, the 
king departed without making peace with us. 

" We, therefore, entreat your kindness to un- 
dertake strenuously the cause of the Church of 


Canterbury, which is the cause of justice. And 
as you promised us at your departure, do not 
hesitate to sta'nd firm as becomes your honour- 
able character, in defence of the liberties of the 
Church and our own person, for we are ready 
to comply with what is right, and oppose ourself 
to those who oppose themselves to the cause of 
justice. You may place implicit confidence in 
whatever the bearers tell you as coming from 




" MAY God comfort you in all your distresses, 
for you have sorrowed at the sufferings of my 
fellow exiles and myself, as if they had been 
your own, and as facts have shown, you have 
endeavoured with all your might to protect God's 
Church and our poor household from the stings 
of exile and of misery. The king of England is 
boasting in the streets of both kingdoms, as if 
by the voice of the crier, that our hands are tied, 
and in proof of my being thus put to confusion, 

1169.] CONRAD OF MAYENCE. 171 

and to render me still more burdensome and 
odious in the sight of men, he produces letters 
from the apostolic see. He boasts also that my 
suspension is to last until he receives me into 
favour, that is, if he so wills it, to the Greek 
calends or never. You advise me in the mean 
time to bear it patiently, and you say a great 
deal in praise of the virtue patience, without 
considering that there is no want of persons to 
quote those words of the comic poet, 

' Omnes, quum valemus, recta consilia aegrotis damns :' 

but if you were in my place you would think 
differently. For who ever had his throat cut 
without pain, except a stupid and insensate fel- 
low? But even this, since it is necessary, and 
God so wills it, my mind shall bear with fortitude, 
but not I, but the grace of God which is with 

" You also commend the sincerity and friendly 
diligence of my lords the cardinals : and I too 
do not entertain suspicions about some of them, 
particularly in a cause which concerns God and 
the Roman Church, rather than me or mine. 
May God requite them for the good which they 
do or are likely to do to Christ's poor exiles ! 
But the others, may God convert them, that they 
may feel it at His hands, and not take bribes to 
the subversion of all justice, the dishonour of the 


apostolic see, and their own damnation, making 
gain of calumnies, and aiming after rewards. But 
these also say in their letters that they sympa- 
thize with me and my exiles ; but the ethic 
writer answers in irony : 

' Omnes compatiuntur, nemo succurrit :' 

and rightly so, for their deeds testify of them. 
You advise me by all means to make peace with 
the tyrant, the persecutor and tormentor of the 
Church. But the Roman Church, and certain 
of the cardinals, by whose counsels he is influ- 
enced, as he says, have closed up the way of 
peace. For lately, when there was a hope of 
peace, they caused me to be invited a second 
time to a conference by the count of Flanders, 
when his own messengers and those of his car- 
dinals returning from our lord the pope brought 
with them the letters containing our suspension, 
and so gave horns to the transgressor, by which 
he may reject the peace as long as he pleases, 
and mean time keep the Church of God in sus- 
pense, as if by the authority of the apostolic 

" You write me word that fortune is labouring 
for the injury of the Roman Church, by disturb- 
ing the unity of the most powerful cities of Italy. 
Why do you suppose that this has happened, 
my dear friend, except because you do not give 

1169.] CONRAD OF MAYENCE. 173 

due thanks to God your Redeemer, but seek 
what concerns yourselves alone, as if it were 
your own arm and not your Lord's, which accom- 
plished the mighty deeds of the past year? Nor 
would I say this for you and others, who walk 
in the right path, but for those who expose God's 
Church to its persecutors and seek after lucre. 
And because the Church of Canterbury is almost 
destroyed, and I and my fellow exiles are attenu- 
ated and afflicted beyond measure, I pray you, 
earnestly, to join your friends with you, and 
persuade our lord the pope to have compassion 
on our misery, and among other things, to restore 
the primacy to our Church." 




EVENTS passed over the stage with considerable 
rapidity at the beginning of the year 1169. The 
representations sent to the court of Rome by 
the parties who had been present at Montmirail, 

174 CONDUCT OF [CHAP, xxxiv. 

threw the balance of argument decidedly in the 
archbishop's favour, and when the pope expressed 
his determination not to deprive Becket of the 
power to punish offences by the spiritual sword, 
the field again lay open to him, and the party 
of the king and the bishops were alarmed in a 
corresponding degree, lest ecclesiastical censure 
should now fall upon them. The archbishop had 
already more than once threatened excommuni- 
cation, and had, in fact, once before pronounced 
it against the bishop of London for disobeying 
the orders of his metropolitan. The account of 
this former sentence, which was passed in 1167, 
in defiance of the second appeal of the bishops, 
but had been afterwards, when there was a pros- 
pect of peace, deferred, is given by Herbert de 
Bosham as follows, and though it belongs to a 
previous part of our narrative, has been reserved 
until now, that the subject may possess the ad- 
vantage of continuity. 

" We immediately began to consider whether 
we should pay attention to the appeal of the 
bishops or not ; for although the law makes no 
distinction, and says, that when an appeal is in- 
terposed, whether it is admitted or not, no move 
shall be made by either party, and this is done 
in order that no impediment may lie in the way 
of the decision. In the canon as well as the 
civil law, the appeal devolves to the hearing of 


him to whom the appeal is made, but our pro- 
fessors, being well versed in such questions, drew 
many distinctions, and explained the meaning of 
the law about appeals. We forbear here to give 
their reasonings, especially as those who know 
the canon law are well acquainted with this sub- 
ject. We -therefore came to the decision that 
the appeal was made to elude justice, and to 
oppress those who were oppressed enough already. 
Wherefore we would pay it no attention. But 
we all of us advised, entreated, and even sup- 
plicated the archbishop to exempt the person of 
the king only from his meditated censure. 

" The archbishop, therefore, knowing from the 
words of the prophet that the man is cursed 
who withholds his sword from blood, or does the 
work of God negligently, made himself ready for 
his work : and first he cited some clerks of the 
court, who by reason of orders or the gift of 
ecclesiastical benefices were under allegiance to 
himself, to appear before him without delay. On 
others he enjoined the performance of certain 
duties in virtue of their obedience and in peril 
of their orders; but the former did not appear 
at the summons, nor did the latter execute the 
duties enjoined on them. The archbishop, there- 
fore, not heeding their appeal, smote them with 
the sword of God's word, and bound them pub- 
licly by a sentence of anathema : and he fulfilled 

176 CONDUCT OF [CHAP, xxxiv. 

the requirements of the canons as far as the evil 
temper of the times allowed, by sending letters 
of excommunication to the proper persons. This 
sentence was passed both on clerks and laymen 
of the court, and for various reasons : on some 
because they violently kept possession of eccle- 
siastical property, on others because they had 
received farms belonging to his see, not from 
himself but from the king, during the period of 
his own exile. All, moreover, who had taken 
into their keeping farms or possessions belonging 
to his see or to any of his clerks, on the authority 
of the king, were now sentenced to excommuni- 
cation. But amongst them were also some of 
the bishops for manifest disobedience, and be- 
cause they had been from the beginning stirrers 
up of the strife between him and the king, and 
did not cease still to foment it. Gilbert Foliot, 
bishop of London, was one of these. 

" Now these excommunicates were some of the 
most familiar of the king's counsellors, and the 
number of them, some being in their own persons 
excommunicated, and others by communion with 
those who were, was so great, that there was 
hardly one in the king's chapel who could offer 
to his majesty the ' kiss of peace' in the cele- 
bration of the communion. For the archbishop 
neither could nor would have patience any longer. 
He would not spare them, even though the apos- 


tolic pope had, by his own paramount authority, 
absolved those whom he before had bound with 
the same sentence : namely, the bishop of Salis- 
bury and that clerk of the court who, as we 
have already related, made an unlawful treaty 
in Germany with schismatics, against the peace 
of the Church and the apostolic pontiff." 

Among the clerks thus involved in one com- 
mon sentence was the archbishop's own arch- 
deacon, Geoffrey Ridel, who had been guilty of 
certain offences, and, like the bishop of London, 
neglected to appear before the archbishop when 
cited. The bishop of Worcester, who, it will be 
remembered, was closely related to the king, 
had also been summoned, and with the king's 
permission obeyed the mandate, and appeared 
before the archbishop. On his return to court, 
the excommunications had been pronounced. 
The bishop was received with much courtesy by 
the king after his return : and they one day 
entered the chapel together to hear mass. When 
they had taken their places, the archdeacon of 
Canterbury, Geoffrey Ridel, entered, and the 
bishop of Worcester, in obedience to the canon, 
withdrew, that he might not communicate with 
one who was under the anathema of his arch- 
bishop. The king was surprised at the bishop's 
going out, and asked the reason ; when they 



informed him of it, he burst into a violent fit 
of passion, and sent a servant after the bishop, 
ordering him to leave not only the chapel but 
the kingdom. The bishop paid prompt obedience 
to this order, bade his retainers to follow him 
speedily, and sent a messenger to tell the king 
that he was gone. The servants had already 
packed up their baggage to follow their master, 
when some of the king's courtiers interfered and 
expostulated with the king. " My lord," said 
they, " what have you done ? you have banished 
from the country a bishop who is not only most 
faithful to you, but connected with you by blood. 
If you will allow us to speak, you have not 
done well. Besides which, you have now given 
the archbishop an opportunity which he has long 
wanted. Our lord the pope has not yet had any 
just cause for proceeding against you, but he 
will embrace the opportunity which is now pre- 
sented. You cause sorrow to your friends and 
triumph to your enemies: you proscribe the in- 
nocent, and have now banished a bishop." These 
arguments brought the king to reason, and he 
dispatched messengers to recal the bishop, but 
he was obliged to repeat his message three times 
before the bishop would return. At last however 
he came back, and spoke his opinion pretty freely 
to the king, who did not take offence at it : but 


as long as he was at court, the excommunicated 
archdeacon did not dare show himself in the 
chapel or about the king's person." 

The bishop of Hereford was one of those whom 
the archbishop cited to appear before him, but 
he could not obtain permission to cross the water, 
and it was hazardous to attempt it secretly, for 
the same strict guard was kept up all along the 
coast. This cause of uneasiness preyed so upon 
the bishop's mind, that he fell ill and died shortly 
after. These two bishops of Hereford and Wor- 
cester had always been well disposed towards the 
archbishop and favoured his side, for they re- 
ceived consecration from his hands, and were 
probably the only bishops in England who, not 
having known the primate before his election, 
w r ere not disposed to feel jealousy or to draw 
comparisons to his disadvantage. 

These details, which are preserved by Fitz- 
Stephen, belong to the latter part of the year 
1167, for it was in that year that the see of 
Hereford became vacant by the death of Robert 
de Melun ; but the intervention of the pope's 
legates, and other causes rapidly succeeding to 
one another, had induced the archbishop of Can- 
terbury not to press the excommunications. But 
now, in the beginning of the year 1169, after 
the failure of the conference at Montmirail, 
he determined at once to put in force the last 

N 2 


weapons of the Church. The bishop of London 
had been guilty of contumacy by refusing to ap- 
pear to any of the summonses that were sent 
him ; his lordship of Salisbury was considered 
as an accomplice in disobedience, and the two 
bishops were not long suffered to remain in sus- 
pense : a final summons was sent them in the 
month of February or March of this year, to 
appear before their metropolitan ; and this sum- 
mons gave rise to the following correspondence. 



" WHILST our lord of Canterbury is machinating 
as much harm as possible against the common- 
wealth, he is singling us two out, as they tell me, 
as an especial mark for his arrows, that he may 
vent on us the first effects of his anger, and so 
make us recognize his power by the harm it does 
us ; for I at least have never yet experienced any 
good resulting from it. He has lately, so they 
say, summoned us into France to appear before 
him, threatening if we fail to do so, that he will 
pass sentence of excommunication upon us. As 
I consider myself aggrieved in this, I have already 
appealed publicly against him, and shall send off 
one of my clerks on Tuesday next, God willing, 

1169.] TO BECKET. 181 

to give the archbishop notice of my appeal. I 
have thought fit to notify this to you, that if you 
choose to adopt the same course, one of your 
clerks may go also in company with mine. If 
you have had any certain information about this 
matter, please to send me word at London, 
where I hope to remain from Friday of the 
present week to Wednesday of the week next 

The bishop's messenger departed on the day 
appointed, bearing with him the following letter, 
notifying to the archbishop the course which the 
writer had adopted. 




" YOUR severity, my lord, has naturally given 
cause of alarm to my lord of Salisbury and my- 
self; wherefore, judging by the past, and fearing 
lest you may pass sentence of interdict on our 
lord the king of England and his kingdom, or 
on us, the suffragans of your Church, we have 
appealed to our lord the pope in the beginning 
of the present Lent, and fixed the octaves of 
the purification of St. Mary, as the term of our 


appeal. This we signify to you by our present 
letter, that if you have aught against us, you may 
bring it forward in the presence of his holiness, 
and we will answer to the same, and humbly abide 
by his decision. May God avert his anger from 
us, that you may not put in execution what you 

This proceeding on the part of the bishops 
did not, however, save them from the punishment 
which had been so long delayed. On Palm 
Sunday the archbishop pronounced solemn ex- 
communication at Clairvaux, against the delin- 
quent bishops, together with Hugh, earl of Nor- 
folk, Randolf de Broc, Thomas Fitz-Herbert, 
Hugh St. Clare, Nigel de Sackville, Richard de 
Hastings, and the clerks, Robert de Broc and 
Letard de Norflece. He also threatened to pass 
a similar sentence on several others, if they should 
not make atonement before Ascension Day. 

The report of this speedily reached London, 
although the written documents did not find their 
way without great difficulty. The bishop being 
informed of what had happened, immediately set 
out for the metropolis, and called together the 
canons and clergy of St. Paul's, together with the 
abbats, priors, and other officials of the adjoining 
churches, to whom he related the rumour which 
had reached him, and how he had been excom- 
municated ; but to the surprise of all, he did not 


act as if he intended to obey the sentence. Not 
long after he called a general synod of his diocese, 
and informed them of what had been done; 
alleging that he had not been summoned, and so 
had been condemned absent and unheard. But 
he contended also that it was impossible for him 
to be summoned, because no one could be found 
to convey the summons contrary to the king's 
orders. He concluded his address with disclaim- 
ing all allegiance to the archbishop, to whom he 
had professed no obedience when he was trans- 
lated from Hereford, and asserted that the see of 
London from the time of the ancient Britons had 
been metropolitan. "In all this debate," says 
Fitz-stephen, who relates it, " the bishop's cause 
found much benefit from his having no opponent 
to speak against it." This was, however, a critical 
moment for the bishop. If he should receive 
letters of excommunication, such was the disci- 
pline of the Church, it would be necessary for 
him to submit. His friends were divided in their 
opinions ; some advised him at once to consider 
himself as excommunicated, and to act accord- 
ingly ; others advised him to wait at least till he 
should receive letters containing his sentence ; and 
they also suggested that he might probably contrive 
to avoid receiving them at all. The king's justi- 
ciaries were now informed that such letters would 


possibly ere long arrive, and they in consequence 
redoubled their vigilance along the whole of the 
English coast. 

The archbishop was for some time sorely at a 
loss to find a person who would venture to convey 
this sentence into England. At last a young lay- 
man named Berenger offered himself, and we 
learn from the narrative of Fitz-stephen in what 
manner he discharged his mission. 

On the festival of Ascension-day a priest, an 
excellent but timid man, named Vitalis, was offici- 
ating at the high altar of St. Paul's church, Lon- 
don, when just as they began to chaunt the 
Offerenda, and the priest had presented the 
bread and wine and made ready the chalice, a 
stranger named Berenger approached, and falling- 
down on his knees, held out to the priest what 
appeared to be his donation to the offertory. The 
priest, astonished at the man's behaviour, held out 
his hand to receive the oblation. Berenger put 
into his hand a letter, saying, " The bishop of 
this diocese is not present ; no more is the dean ; 
but I see you as Christ's officiating minister, and I 
here in the name of God and our lord the pope, 
present to you this letter from the archbishop 
of Canterbury, containing the sentence which he 
has pronounced on the bishop of London, also 
another letter to the dean, enjoining him and his 


clergy to observe this sentence. And I forbid 
you by God's authority to celebrate in this church 
after the present mass, until you have delivered 
to the bishop and the dean these letters." The 
stranger having spoken these words, disappeared 
amid the crowds of people who were moving off 
to their homes, as was usual after the Gospel had 
been read, for they had already heard mass in 
their own parish churches. A buzz went round 
among those who were nearest to the altar, and 
they began to ask the priest if divine service was 
prohibited in the cathedral. On his answering 
in the negative, the people said no more, and the 
man retired unmolested. The priest meanwhile 
continued the service of the mass, but the king's 
officials made search in all parts of the city for 
Berenger, and placed guards at all the cross- 
ings of the streets, but he could no where be 

Not many days elapsed before the bishop and 
dean returned to London, when the priest Vitalis 
delivered to each his letter : the tenour of these 
letters was as follows : 






" YOUR extravagances we have long enough borne 
with : and we hope that our patience may not be 
as detrimental to the whole Church as it has been 
to ourselves. You have abused our patience, and 
would not listen to the pope or ourselves in the 
advice which concerned your salvation, but your 
obstinacy has become worse and worse, until, from 
regard to our sacred duty, and to the require- 
ments of the law, we have for just and manifest 
causes passed sentence of excommunication on 
you, and cut you off from Christ's body, which is 
the Church, until you make condign satisfaction. 
We therefore command you, by virtue of your 
obedience and in peril of your salvation, your 
episcopal dignity, and priestly orders, to abstain, 
as the forms of the Church prescribe, from all 
communion with the faithful, lest by coming in 
contact with you the Lord's flock be contami- 
nated to their ruin, whereas they ought to have 
been instructed by your teaching, and led by your 
example to everlasting life." 





" IT must not be forgotten by your prudence, how 
perversely, as all the Latin world well knows, our 
brother Gilbert the bishop of London, availing 
himself of the general schism which exists, has 
behaved in matters connected with the Church, 
and done his best to disturb its peace. We have 
borne with him until now with much patience ; 
but he has continually abused our patience, and 
with incorrigible obstinacy has added disobedience 
to disobedience. Wherefore, being no longer able 
to dissemble, and compelled both by the necessity 
of the case and the law, we have publicly excom- 
municated him, and command you in virtue of 
your obedience, and in peril of your orders and 
salvation, to abstain altogether, as faithful Chris- 
tians, from his communion. 

" In like manner we command you, under the 
same perils, to avoid as excommunicate those 
whose names are written here below. 

" We will also on Ascension-day involve in the 
same sentence the others whom we have solemnly 


summoned before us, unless they make satisfac- 
tion in the interim. These are, Geoffrey archdea- 
con of Canterbury, and Robert his deputy, Richard 
of Ilchester, Richard de Lucy, William Gifford, 
Adam de Chere, and all those who with the aid 
or counsel of the king, or by his mandate or au- 
thority, have seized on the goods of ourselves or 
our clerks : those also who notoriously have insti- 
gated the king to injure the Church, or to pro- 
scribe and banish the innocent, and impede the 
pope's messenger or our own, so that they may 
not discharge the commissions of the Church. 

" Let not your hearts be troubled, nor take 
alarm at these things, for against the wiles of the 
malignant, and the subterfuges of the appellants, 
by God's mercy, we are safe under the protection 
of the apostolic see. 

" These are the names of the excommunicates. 
Joceline bishop of Salisbury, Earl Hugh, Randolf 
de Broc, Thomas Fitz-Bernard, the clerk Robert 
de Broc, Hugh de St. Clair, the clerk Letard of 
Norflece, Nigel de Sackville, and Richard the 
brother of William de Hastings, who also occu- 
pied our Church of Manech. Farewell." 

This notice thus regularly served put the fact 
of the excommunications beyond all doubt ; but 
the bishop of London now did his utmost to in- 
duce the other prelates to join in the appeal 
which he had previously set up. A letter from 


the bishop of Worcester to the chapter of Canter- 
bury would lead us to infer that several councils 
were held at London for the purpose of procuring 
their assent. 



" I SHALL relate to you the proceedings of our 
party in few words. Alarmed at the threat of an 
interdict, they took counsel together, and sending 
for our bishops, after speeches had been made, 
they asked each individually whether he wished 
himself and his Church to be included in the 
appeal which our bishops had made in the begin- 
ning of Lent to the term of the Purification, which 
by common consent they also proposed to renew 
on the octave of Whitsunday. The bishop of 
Durham therefore, who sat first, replied that he 
had not been present at that appeal, nor heard 
anything at all of a threat, either written or un- 
written, that he would consult his metropolitan 
on the subject, and would act advisedly in the 
matter, whatever might be best, saving God's 
order and his own. By this contrivance he gained 
the good-will of all who heard him and obtained 
delay. The bishop of Exeter being then asked 
his opinion, replied that the bishops his colleagues 
had taken refuge in an appeal without asking his 


advice, that it was inconsistent to rest on the 
appeal, and at the same time to shun the com- 
pany of the excommunicates, that there was great 
reason to apprehend lest the supreme pontiff 
should confirm the interdict, which was a risk 
that nothing should induce him to encounter. If, 
however, they wished to promote the advantage 
of the Church, and the royal favour would allow 
him to leave the kingdom, he had no objec- 
tion to appeal afresh about an injury to be ap- 
prehended but not already inflicted, although a 
special remedy might be obtained against every 
appeal. If he were aware of this, and the sen- 
tence of his superior passed upon him, he should 
bear it patiently. At these words the bishop of 
London made his religion ridiculous, and his 
lordship of Exeter was from that time put out 
of the synagogue. 

"The bishop of Winchester was cited to an- 
swer at Northampton about this question that 
was proposed to his colleagues, but he wrote back 
in these terms : ' The law of God prescribes that 
when a man is summoned before a superior judge, 
he cannot appeal to an inferior. Now he who ap- 
peals, binds himself of a necessity to prosecute his 
appeal. For this reason it is that I, who am sink- 
ing under disease and old age, and HAVE RECEIVED 



EARTHLY TRIBUNAL. I pray your brotherly kind- 
ness, therefore, not to thrust me into the em- 
barrassment of an appeal, by which I may incur 
the sentence of an anathema.' This answer cre- 
ated suspicion in the minds of those who heard it, 
but the bishop of Winchester preferred to incur 
the anger of man than to offend against the law 
of God. This suspicion was made evident, by his 
afterwards publishing the sentence of excommuni- 
cation that was sent him 3 , and by his avoiding all 
correspondence with the excommunicates. We 
are informed that Reginald archdeacon of Wilt- 
shire obtained reconciliation for his father, and 
that his lordship the pope was altogether ignorant 
of the sentence that was passed." . . . 

In this endeavour therefore to combine all the 
bishops of England in his cause, Gilbert Foliot 
was evidently baffled ; and his attempt to establish 
the independence of his own see only served to 
create ridicule against him. "He boasts," said 
John of Salisbury in a letter to a friend, " that 
London was once the seat of an arch-flamen when 
Jupiter was worshipped in Britain. So wise and re- 
ligious a man as he might perhaps like to see the 
worship of Jupiter restored, that, if he cannot be 
archbishop, he may at all events be arch-flamen." 

3 The noble-minded Henry of Winchester incurred the odium 
of many of the king's party, by sending money and necessaries 
to Becket during his exile. 


The archbishop however, knowing that this 
foolish attempt to dispossess Canterbury of its 
prerogative had been more than once made, gave 
orders that the necessary proofs of its supre- 
macy should be sent to Rome, whither Gilbert 
Foliot was now hastening : but before the latter 
started, he sent the following letters to the 



" YOUR excellency, my lord, cannot be ignorant 
how heavily his lordship of Canterbury has put 
forth his hand upon us and certain others of your 
faithful servants, and aimed with the right hand 
of iniquity his spiritual sword against our person, 
contrary to all justice. It is clearly laid down in 
the canons that no one shall prematurely, that is, 
unsummoned or unconvicted, be condemned : no 
bishop can excommunicate a man until the cause 
is proved of which he is accused. Since then his 
lordship has deviated from justice, we trust in 
God, that his sword which he has aimed at us 
may srnite nothing but the air. For we antici- 
pated the blow by appealing to the pope, and an 
appeal made in the beginning of Lent must nullify 
a sentence passed on the Palm-sunday following. 

1169.] TO THE KING. 193 

Pope Sixtus ordained that when a bishop deems 
himself aggrieved by his metropolitan, or holds 
him in suspicion, he shall appeal to the Roman 
see, which shall give him a hearing, and in the 
mean time no one shall excommunicate him until 
the cause has been decided. And if any sentence 
shall be passed in the interim, it shall altogether 
be without effect." 


This letter was shortly after succeeded by the 
following : 




" WE send to your lordship our household clerk 
master H., a man devoted to your service, en- 
treating you most affectionately to hear us, and to 
assist us with your royal mercy in our present ne- 
cessity. This your majesty may do by writing to 
our lord the pope, and begging him to admit the 
appeal which we have made to him, as justice de- 
mands, and to suspend by his authority the sen- 
tence which has been passed on us since we ap- 
pealed, until he shall have heard our cause and 
decided between the parties. We pray of you 



also to give us letters to our lords the cardinals 
your friends, that they may intercede with his 
lordship the pope, and by their intercession procure 
for us the favour which we speak of, namely lis- 
tening to an appeal, for that is due to every one 
who suffers injustice and oppression. For pope 
Sixtus ordains that ' when a bishop thinks that 
he is treated wrongfully by his metropolitan, or 
holds him in suspicion, he shall appeal to the 
Roman see, and whilst he shall claim to be heard 
by it, no one shall excommunicate him until his 
case shall be decided by the authority of the holy 

'" Furthermore, as it is highly necessary that we 
should enjoy your converse and advice as often as 
possible, we pray your excellency most fervently 
to allow us to cross the water, and permit the 
messenger whom we are sending to our lord the 
pope, to await our arrival on the other side. May 
Almighty God preserve your highness for ever." 



" I HAVE heard of the outrage which that traitor 
and enemy of mine Thomas has inflicted on you 
and on other of my subjects, and I am as much 


displeased as if it had fallen on my own person. 
Wherefore be it known to you for certain that I 
will do my best, through our lord the pope, the 
king of France and all my friends, that hence- 
forth he shall not have it in his power to injure 
us or our dominions. It is my will and advice 
that you do not suffer this matter to prey upon 
your mind, but defend yourself to the best of your 
ability, and either come over to me here at once 
into Normandy, or remain in England, as you may 
think most expedient. For I leave this to your 
own discretion : but you may be assured that if 
you determine to come, and wish to proceed to 
Rome, I will furnish you with every thing neces- 
sary for your journey, or that may conduce to 

maintain my own dignity. Witness G , my 

clerk at St. Macaire's in Gascony." 

The bishop of London lost no time in availing 
himself of the assistance which was thus offered : 
he crossed over immediately into Normandy, and 
shortly afterwards set out for Rome, whilst the 
king redeemed his pledge, by writing to the pope 
and requesting his interference. 


" YOUR serene highness knows full well how I 
and my whole kingdom have been troubled and 


injured by that enemy of mine, Thomas of Can- 
terbury, though my conscience does not reproach 
me with having done any thing to deserve it. I 
believe you cannot have forgotten how your 
fatherly goodness formerly sent the cardinals to 
inquire into this matter, but it pleased you to 
exempt the archbishop from their jurisdiction, 
and so my innocence, being fettered by these in- 
structions of yours, could not be satisfactorily 
brought to light. I have on several, indeed on all 
occasions, been ready to abide by a fair trial in the 
face of the Church, and if I have done the least 
wrong, which I cannot call to mind that I have 
done, to make atonement for it, as is reasonable, 
and more so indeed than my predecessors were, 
though they were much superior to me. I can- 
not, therefore, be sufficiently surprised that your 
prudence should suffer a devout son of the 
Roman Church, who has always been most ready 
to abide by justice, to be thus oppressed, as it 
seems to me, contrary to all justice, and to be 
harassed by most unreasonable annoyances. The 
archbishop, who still persists in attacking the 
innocent, has now added a fresh injury to the 
many that have preceded. Backed, as he says, 
by your authority, he has again excommunicated 
those faithful sons of the Roman Church, the 
bishops of London and Salisbury, though they 
had already made an appeal, and were ready to 

11G9.] TO THE POPE. 197 

submit to justice, and this too without convicting 
them, and even without summons or previous 
admonition. He threatens, moreover, to pass the 
same sentence on several of my friends, though 
he has no reasonable cause against them. This 
gives me as much annoyance as if the censure had 
been inflicted on my own person. How insup- 
portable this is, and injurious to my own fame 
and yours, I believe your prudence may well ima- 
gine. It seems as if your fatherly goodness had 
discarded me, for you do not attend to the inju- 
ries which your son is suffering ; but to increase 
my ignominy and reproach, you suffer my enemy 
to make most shameful assaults upon me, and 
the violence of his injustice meets with no 
restraint from your fatherly hand. I entreat, 
therefore, your highness to show the affection 
of a father towards your son, and without delay 
to put a check upon the injuries which are done 
to me and my people. I entreat you also most 
earnestly to annul what my enemy Thomas 
aforesaid has done illegally, and after appeal, 
against the people, clerks and laymen, of my 
kingdom. Witness G. Vasatur, bishop at St. 
Macaire's in Gascony." 





" WE are often compelled to pour our sorrows into 
the ears of your holiness ; for they are increased 
beyond number and beyond measure : and besides 
yourself there are few or none to console us in 
our tribulation, or to promise us consolation. We 
will say nothing at present of the deaths of our 
relatives, the slaughter or imprisonment of Christ's 
priests, the cruel decree, far exceeding that of Herod 
in barbarity, by which he proscribed all whom he 
suspected, of every age and sex, infants in the 
cradle, and depending for sustenance upon their 
mothers' milk. For by dwelling on these things, 
our sorrows are protracted also, and it is always 
an alleviation of punishment to reduce it within a 
narrow compass. Our persecutor ought to be 
content with having so long tormented our 
Church, and kept us five years in exile, waiting 
till our patience should soften him to mercy. 
Examine, if you please, all ancient history, look 
at the deeds of all the tyrants that are therein 
recorded, retrace all the annals of the Church, 
and you will have difficulty in finding one of its 
persecutors who so steadily pursued his victim, 
and used every art to involve so many innocent 

1169.] THE BISHOP OF OSTIA. 199 

persons in the same suffering. His attempts to 
draw our blood, and with us to destroy the 
Church's liberty, and the authority of the apos- 
tolic see, are so manifest, that we wonder how 
the Roman pontiff can bear with him so long, 
and endure his unreasonable demands, to the 
injury of that Church which his holiness is ap- 
pointed to defend. 

" ' To quell the haughty but to spare the fallen,' 
was the ancient motto of the Romans, and it is 
surely the doctrine of Christ's Church, ' Behold, I 
have set thee over nations and kingdoms,' &c. 
Should there be any regard for persons among 
the successors of St. Peter? This is not so with 
God, who treats prince and plebeian alike as they 
have deserved. What glory can there be either for 
God or man in giving the poor man his rights and 
restraining princes from heinous crimes ? Justice 
severely punishes the powerful, and exercises her 
harshest prerogative over those who are in office. 
Who was ever before allowed, with the connivance 
of the Roman pontiff, to abuse the property of the 
Church so licentiously as the king of England has 
done ? He has now for five years held the reve- 
nues of our see and all our goods, besides the 
bishoprics of Lincoln, Bath, Hereford, and Ely, 
whilst the possessions of the see of Landaff have 
been almost all squandered upon his knights, and 
Bangor has been ten years without a bishop, be- 


cause the king will not consent to an election. 
What shall I say of the abbacies which he keeps 
in his own hands? It is, in fact, impossible to 
number them. And all this he defends under 
the name of his constitutions, which the Roman 
Church ought to have denounced at once, together 
with those who observed them, as hostile to God 
and his eternal law. If we had submitted to 
those constitutions, no harm would have happened 
to us or to any belonging to us : and if we will 
now submit to them, we may return as soon as we 
like to our country, and to the king's favour. 
But God forbid that we should purchase advan- 
tage to ourselves, by the public detriment of the 
Church, or derogate from the privileges of the holy 
see, receiving for ourselves eternal damnation in 
exchange for temporal advantage. 

And now, because we will not consent to the 
Church's downfall, the king is aiming to ensure 
our own ruin. We will not exchange God's law 
for the iniquity of a tyrant : and so he aims at 
getting us transferred to another see, though 
there is no necessity or benefit to be derived 
therefrom, but rather it is a breach of the law. 
Because we will not consent to this iniquity, he 
wishes the Roman court to translate us, that so 
he and his accomplices may carry on, by our 
translation, some sort of traffic of our blood, 
whatever it may be. 

1109.] THE BISHOP OF OSTIA. 201 

" What else can be his meaning in trying to 
bribe the Milanese, Cremonese, and Parmese 
against us ? How did we ever harm the Pavians 
or any other people of Italy that they should 
wish our exile ? In what have we offended the 
sages of -Bologna, for neither promises nor threats 
could induce them to consent to our ruin ? We 
did not, most assuredly, proscribe Robert de Bas- 
serville, and yet he was led to use his exertions 
with you, that our exile might be perpetuated : 
but when he found out the deceit, he repented, 
and intreated that his former unjust petition 
might be refused. Richard, bishop elect of Syra- 
cuse, was induced, by the promise of the see of 
Lincoln, to aid our persecutors by his money, his 
counsel, and all his power. Even the king of 
Sicily, in whose dominions you live, has been 
promised the king of England's daughter, if he 
will join in effecting our ruin. Have they not also 
bribed all the most influential of the Romans, 
like hired banditti, not to persuade, but actually 
to bear down the Roman Church ? But besides 
all this, they promise to procure peace with the 
emperor and the Saxons, and to bribe all the 
Romans to take the oath of allegiance to the 
pope, if he will gratify the king of England by 
deposing us. It is now clear what kind of safe- 
conduct he meant to furnish us with : for it 
mattered not to him how our creditors were to 


be paid, or my companions, if I could get any, 
be furnished with necessaries for the journey, 
or the cruelty of deserting those who for five 
years have borne the severity of exile. The same 
kind of attentions on the part of the king's minis- 
ters, for we cannot suppose himself to -be privy 
to it, might easily furnish us with poisoned ves- 
sels ; it is difficult for a man to protect his life, 
when the steward of his household is the traitor. 
Not to multiply words or protract my letter, 
no invitation shall ever induce us to meet such 
hazards. For if a man, from any cause, does not 
shrink from death, he had better at once use a 
knife or a halter. 

" The king has recently sent the bishop of Seez 
and Geoffrey, archdeacon of Canterbury, to his 
most Christian majesty, earnestly intreating him 
to expel us from his kingdom. But that pious 
king replied that he had received as an inherit- 
ance from his ancestors a custom which had 
always prevailed in France, namely, to entertain 
those who were exiled for the truth, and to show, 
them all due hospitality. He added, that he 
would, by God's grace, never abandon this here- 
ditary duty ; for that he had received us from 
the pope, his only superior on earth, and no king 
or emperor should induce him to give us up ; 
for God is on our side, because we are suffering 
wrongs and insults in defence of his law. With 

1169.] THE BISHOP OF OSTIA. 203 

this answer the bishops were dismissed in con- 
fusion, and the king, though he has always been 
kind and liberal towards us, is now, God bless 
him for it, more kind and liberal than ever. He 
says, that in our cause he shall be enabled to 
prove the sincerity and vigour of the Roman 
Church and the truth of our lord the pope, whose 
faith and constancy he commends on this account 
especially, that the king of England has been 
repulsed in his unjust claims; if, at least, what 
he has heard from the newsmongers be true, and 
our lord the pope has persisted in what he pro- 
mised concerning us. There are certain of the 
opposite party, who dissuade us from asking res- 
titution of what has been taken from us, and 
advise us, if the question of peace be discussed, 
to pass over all the different particulars without 
much discussion ; but these men do not consider 
what a dangerous example this would be, for 
cupidity will thus be excited, and he may be 
led to banish and proscribe the bishops, and then 
make peace with the Church, no matter what 
may be the loss to her. Such dissimulation as 
this excites the avarice of the temporal power, 
and gives wicked men an opportunity of sinning 
boldly. It would be better for us never to have 
been born, than to have brought so pernicious 
an example into the Church : particularly since 
it is easy for him to compensate, in a great 


measure, for the loss of possessions, by immuni- 
ties, privileges, uncultivated land, and other be- 

" Nor will it be easy for them to extort consent 
from me by violence, if the pope only stands by 
me. For though he may use threats, yet all the 
world have trembled since they have seen the 
contumacious bishops, their satellites and accom- 
plices in iniquity, delivered over to Satan, to the 
destruction of the flesh. If they repent and are 
contrite, he will the sooner and the more easily 
be subdued, and his lightnings be converted into 
rain. You may believe those who have had ex- 
perience, for we know the character of the man ; 
we have borne the burden and the heat of the 
day, nor do we fear an engagement in behalf of 
the Lord and the liberties of his Church. Believe 
me, I say, that he is a man of such a nature 
that he cannot be amended without punishment. 
And because the bishop of London is the en- 
courager of all his malice, and has lately rushed 
into such an unblushing course of action as to 
say, that since his translation he owes no obe- 
dience to the Church of Canterbury, to which 
he has made profession, boasting, moreover, that 
he will get the archiepiscopal see transferred to 
London ; it is necessary to bruise the head of so 
great iniquity, that the English Church may re- 
cover. Our brothers and colleagues have op- 

1169.] BISHOP OF OSTIA. 205 

posed him in his machinations against the unity 
of the Church, and he in return has taken over 
the king's official from the continent to crush 
them, because they would not join him in being 
stamped with the image of the beast. The Lord 
has raised you up to protect the Church of Can- 
terbury. Be pleased then to recall those things 
to the memory of our lord the pope, and confirm 
your brethren as you are wont in maintaining 
the Church, that so by our patience in suffering, 
the apostolic see may effect the delivery of the 
English Church. For we will die in exile rather 
than see the divine law set aside in favour of 
tyrannical traditions. Pardon me if my necessity 
compels me to write so lengthily : it is consola- 
tory to pour my sorrows into the ear of my dear- 
est lord and father. 

' 'Tis sweet to those who once have suffered, thus 
To tell their tale of woe.' 

And we entreat you earnestly to bear it in your 
recollection also. Farewell, and remember me 
in your prayers before the Lord !" 

The names of the excommunicated who were 
incorrigible and have been denounced the second 
time, are as follows : Geoffery, archdeacon of Can- 
terbury, Robert, his deputy, Richard of Ilchester, 
Richard de Lucy, William Gifford, and Adam de 




" THE word of the Evangelist says, ' He who is 
not with me is against me, and he who gathereth 
not with me scattereth abroad.' .And now I 
would ask you, what have I ever done to offend 
your highness, or what lukewarmness in your ser- 
vice have I ever shown, that your able and kind 
assistance should not be rendered to me in my 
present tribulation, or what is harder still, that 
you should not at least withhold your hand from 
adding to the cares and troubles, and increasing 
the misery of a banished and wretched man ? 

" You surely should not take this reflection to 
your conscience as a source of pride or credit. For- 
bear then, I entreat you, forbear to aggravate the 
ill fortune of the unfortunate, or to wound the 
innocent. For though I was once in prosperity, 
I have been taught by the existing state of things 
to bear adversity ; and it is the best thing that 
can befall the wretched to know their lot. 

" But further, how can you have forgotten, how, 
at the request of our lord the king of France, at 
his forest near Orleans, you received us from his 
hands into your patronage, to protect us against 
all men, except our lord the pope alone ? How 


has this undertaking failed ? We do not believe 
that it has become obsolete by any fault of the 
king, and we are certain that in our own conduct 
towards you, we have done nothing to lose your 
favour or to merit your anger. But enough of 

"To come to our business; the bishop of 
London is proceeding as fast as possible to the 
court, at your suggestion, it is said, that whilst we 
have no enemies there and very few friends, he 
may by smooth flatteries, unbounded promises 
and threats, whether on his own part or of the 
king's, obtain favour there instead of punishment, 
which he has deserved, and so get absolution, 
whereas he merits nothing but condemnation. 
Let no one pretend that mercy is the preroga- 
tive of the holy see, or that she delights rather to 
look with compassion on sinners than to visit 
them with punishment. We answer you in the 
words of Scripture, Righteousness and peace so 
far love one another, that he who acts with righte- 
ousness will find peace, for ' Righteousness and 
peace have kissed each other.' There is, however, 
one thing which we ask of you above all others, 
never to be unmindful of the long and patient 
course of avarice : she is a gulf that never can be 
filled up, never rejoicing in the fruits of her earn- 
ings, but ever harassed by an insatiable appetite. 
Take care then not to be deceived by the wiles 


of a most malignant man; his religion is but a 
veil, his curious refinements are bounded by no 
law, whilst his empty promises are calculated to 
blind the eyes and to shake the force of all au- 
thority. The end of these things is death : their 
fruits dust and ashes, which are blown away by 
the winds and instantly disappear. Let not un- 
lawful gain tempt you to protect by your autho- 
rity the crimes of that man, which deserve to be 

" What need I say more ? May the Holy 
Spirit work with you, that by means of you and 
your brethren the man of sin may be revealed, 
and his iniquity recoil on his own head. May 
God quash the counsel of Ahithophel, and arraign 
him before his face, that he may receive punish- 
ment for his sins from that tribunal which wields 
the sword of St. Peter, to the chastisement of the 
wicked and the praise of them that do well. So 
will there be glory in heaven before God and his 
angels, and on earth peace, good will towards 

" God bless you, again and again, that it may 
be well with us also, and our wretched fellows in 
exile, especially in the present emergency." 





THE scene must now for a moment be shifted 
to Rome, where the pope's envoys, soon after the 
meeting at Montmirail, delivered their report of 
the failure of their negotiations, and messengers 
dispatched by the king's party recommenced 
their solicitations to the apostolic father, that he 
would interfere at once, and decisively, against 
the archbishop. But the king of France was 
now again on Becket's side, and the statement 
of the reasons which led to the ill-success of the 
mediators was decidedly favourable to the Church 
party. The pope finding himself once more in 
this dilemma, again removed the contention to 
a distance, by deputing Gratian and Vivian to 
mediate for the third time between the parties. 



" THAT we might return as speedily as possible 
to the court, in company with the archbishop of 



Rouen or his messengers, we turned off to Tours, 
and on the 29th of October we received, through 
the prior of Bee and another nobleman, letters 
from the king of England, the archbishop of 
Rouen, and the archdeacon of Canterbury. We 
now transmit to your excellency copies of the 
same, entreating you not to listen to the sug- 
gestions of any clerk whatever, even should he 
be an archbishop, if you do not find the king's 
letters to contain what is consistent with your 
honour. We request you to send us a courier 
or one of your clerks as soon as possible, who 
may signify to us your pleasure, and not to pay 
so much deference to master Gratian as to trample 
under foot, in our person, one who is your good 
friend and chief supporter at the court of Rome." 



" BLESSED be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus 
Christ, who is ever ready, contrary to the ex- 
pectation of many, to join in the indissoluble 
bond of charity what has been severed by the 
counsels of the wicked. We went back, as we 
were recalled, into the king's presence, where, 
by Divine grace, we witnessed nothing in which 
the honour of God and of His Church was vio- 

NOV. 1169.] VIVIAN TO BECKET. 211 

lated. If then you have already received the 
messenger of the most Christian king and of his 
lordship of Rouen, as we fully believe you have, 
we rejoice thereat. For things had been arranged 
to that very end. And if master John of Salis- 
bury, your clerk, and our dear friend, has returned 
to you, as we trust he has, since he has received 
the message, we have reason to be thankful. In 
any case, however, reverend father, we entreat 
you, and advise you in the name of our lord 
the pope, to present yourself, without any hesi- 
tation, at the conference which is about to take 
place between the kings at St. Denys, on the 
Sunday after the feast of St. Martin's. For there, 
if it please God, you will be greeted with the 
hymn, ' Glory to God in the highest, and on earth 
peace; good will towards man!' Your friend 
the chamberlain priest of the great cardinal Wil- 
liam, salutes you as he would his own lord and 
master : he is our associate in our labours, and 
represents his master : he has in his custody 
certain secrets of the king, which tend in every 
way to your exaltation. There is another reason, 
which we will explain when we see you, why you 
should come to this interview, for you will find 
the king and his sons all ready to be at your 
disposal. We are going as fast as possible to 
his serene highness the French king, and at the 
same time wish to see you at the conference. 

p 2 


We salute you and all who are with you in exile ; 
and we hope that our dear friend and companion, 
master Long, may act prudently in this business, 
as men of his nation generally do." 



" As regards the legation which you have received, 
and the business committed to your charge, I 
could wish that no part of it had been forgotten 
in consequence of your visit to the English king, 
and that the authority of him who sent you had 
not suffered, that you had done nothing to his 
disparagement or mine. For so far as your duty 
extended in this matter, when you have once 
discharged the commission entrusted to you, the 
fixing of a certain time for the accomplishment 
of your embassy ought to have taught sufficient 
caution to a man like you, well acquainted with 
the laws. Take care, therefore, that your know- 
ledge is guided by prudence, and that you walk 
prudently, lest you become a joke and laughing- 
stock to the nobles. If, however, on your own 
authority you have undertaken a new legation, 
let him who is concerned submit to it, the weight 
of it should fall upon the shoulders of him who 
will benefit by it : I owe no respect to its juris- 


diction. As to the co-operation, which you name, 
of a certain great cardinal's chamberlain, that 
priest I mean bearing his master's authority, I 
am as much surprised at the presumption of the 
accomplice, as I am at the eagerness of his prin- 
cipal. If any one runs a risk thereby, let him 
have a care how he may best avoid the evil con- 
sequences of such presumption. But I think I 
have now said enough to a wise man. 

" We thank you, however, for the zeal which 
you have shown to obtain peace for us and ours, 
and we wish your prudence had equalled your 
zeal. We greatly fear that your time and labour 
may be thrown away in consequence of the sub- 
tleties and circumlocutions which are used towards 
you, and so all your zeal will have been misspent. 
We cannot understand from your instructions 
why you should so strongly urge us to go to the 
conference which is to be held next Sunday at 
St. Denys, and we wonder why you have been 
so easy in suffering us to be summoned. However, 
out of respect to the holy Roman Church, and 
from regard for you, we will meet you, God 
willing, at Corbeil Castle, on Friday, to hear from 
your own mouth what fruit we are likely to gain 
from all your labours and exertions, and what 
honour and credit are likely to accrue from them 
to yourself. 

" Farewell ! and may God protect you from the 


king's snares, which hardly any one of all that 
have had any dealings with him has been able to 

The narrative of the ensuing events which the 
pen of Becket's secretary and faithful chronicler 
has left us, is too graphic to be here omitted ; 
nor will the reader regret that we have taken 
every opportunity to introduce the words of con- 
temporaries and eye-witnesses, for it is hardly 
possible to produce by any other language the 
same striking picture of the scenes which followed 
one another in rapid succession in this contest of 
principle between Church and State. 

" The pope did not send legates a latere as 
before, but others, men of erudition and zeal 
from the court, to put in force the apostolic man- 
date. One of these was Gratian, of blessed 
memory, nephew of the late pope, Eugenius : 
the other was Vivian, an advocate in the causes 
which come before the court. These men travel- 
led down from Rome without delay ; for they 
had less baggage and furniture than the cardinals, 
and they went straight to the king, without stop- 
ping to see us by the way. In addressing his 
majesty, they used exhortations and admonitions 
with all mildness, mixing them however with 
threats of the Church's anger ; and one of them 
used no sort of flattery whatever, but put the 
king's conduct in its true light, and reproved him 


for it to his face. This was Gratian, who was 
not only gracious to us, as his name implies, but 
was even more vivacious 4 than Vivian, his col- 
league. His object was by all means to restore 
to us the king's favour and peace to the Church, 
and by his exertions to effect this, he gained 
honour both before God and man. Moreover, 
he took care to keep his embassy free from even 
the breath of scandal, for he despised and rejected 
gold and silver, which often sway the minds even 
of the wise, and would not receive any sort of 
bribe or gift whatever, unless he should first ac- 
complish the purpose for which he had been sent. 
And so, as he desired to have nothing, his desire 
was gratified, for he received nothing. 

" After some time, Gratian and his colleague 
came to see us, after having again and again, 
but in vain, solicited and warned the king to 
make peace with us. They told us that in every 
particular, about which they had talked to him, 
they had never met with such a turn-coat and 
crafty dissembler as he had proved himself: for 
he was always seeking how he might contrive 
to put off and delay the business in hand, so as 
to justify his own cause and to injure ours. It 
was Gratian, especially, who gave us this state- 

4 The pun is almost as bad in the Latin original ; but bad 
puns were less offensive in the twelfth century than they are 


ment; and as he found himself now unable to 
effect a reconciliation consistently with God's 
honour and the credit of the Church, he deter- 
mined to return to Rome, and accordingly de- 
parted, turning a deaf ear to all the crafty promises 
that were held out to him, and as unincumbered 
by bribes as when he came he returned, I say, 
like a faithful messenger, and told the apostolic 
pontiff what he had seen and heard : but the 
other, Vivian, who had been joined with him 
in the embassy, remained with us on this side 
of the Alps ; for he had been tainted by the 
poisons of our Western isle, and was so loaded 
with our wealth, that it disqualified him from 
using the same speed in returning. 

" The king of England, therefore, seeing that 
Gratian, like a faithful messenger, was already 
gone back to the pope, without caring whether 
he had incurred favour or enmity by the mode 
in which he had discharged his embassy, began 
immediately to consider what was the best course 
to take ; for he supposed, and not without reason, 
that Gratian would disparage his cause, whilst 
he exalted ours ; and he reflected that the king 
of France, in revenge for the violation of the 
truce with his nobles, would excite the pope 
against him. And so he considered in what way 
he could pacify the offended king, and avert or 
delav the ecclesiastical censure which he saw 


impending. He, therefore, thought it best to 
appease the king of France by an appearance of 
humility, which is pleasing even to the most 
haughty. For which reason he gave out that 
he meant to make a pilgrimage to St. Denys, 
the martyr and apostle of France, and at the 
same time to see his young lord 5 , the king's 
son, who was then a boy. This is that amiable 
boy," adds Herbert, writing nearly sixteen years 
later than the events he is recording, " the only 
son of his father, given him late in life by the 
Lord, to succeed him in his dominions. His 
name is Philip, and may he reign long and pros- 

"After a few days, then, the king suddenly and 
unexpectedly entered France, without requesting 
an interview with Louis, who he knew would 
refuse it : and so he came under the appearance 
of a pilgrimage to St. Denys, the apostle of France, 
hoping that the king, hearing of his arrival, would 
come and meet him, and bring with him the 
archbishop of Canterbury, to try to make peace 
between them as before. For, as we have been 
credibly informed, king Henry repented already 
that he had not made peace with us at the former 

5 It is hardly necessary to inform the reader that Henry II. 
though by far the most powerful sovereign in Europe, was vas- 
sal to king Louis for the dominions which he held in France. 


meeting, even subject to the condition, ' saving 
the honour of God.' 

"Things turned out as the king had antici- 
pated : the king of France met him, and we also 
went to meet him at the chapel, which is called 
the Martyrdom, at the foot of a hill named 
Montmartre, between Paris and St. Denys. This 
chapel has its name from the glorious martyr 
St. Denys, who was slain there. To this chapel we 
came ; but the two kings, who had arrived before 
us, and gone on to see the young prince, who was 
brought out from Paris to meet them, were await- 
ing our arrival in a plain beyond the chapel. 
When one of the company urged the archbishop 
to make haste, because the kings were only waiting 
for him to come up that they might begin the con- 
ference, he replied that a priest ought to travel 
with gravity and decorum. Now the kings re- 
mained without the chapel of the Martyrdom, 
whilst we entered within the walls. The legate 
Vivian, who stopped behind when Gratian re- 
turned to Rome, perceiving that he had now a 
fair opportunity of doing something, began both 
in his own person and through the French king 
and others who were present, to solicit the king 
of England in our behalf: and he was the more 
anxious to do this, because, as his colleague was 
gone, the credit of making peace would be all his 
own. The mild king of France, therefore, with 


his bishops and nobles, interposed their kind 
offices to effect a reconciliation, going backwards 
and forwards, in company with the mediators, 
from the king to us, and from us to the king. 
At last, after much discussion and argument, 
partly in public and partly in private, all difficulties 
seemed smoothed down and every preliminary ad- 
justed. All the objectionable constitutions, though 
not expressly, yet virtually, were withdrawn and 
abandoned by the king, and full effect was given 
to the liberties of the Church, though nothing was 
expressly stipulated by either party on these heads. 
For all agreed that specification would do harm, 
because it might tend to impede the reconcilia- 
tion. The phrase, which had always before been 
added, and had caused so much difficulty, namely, 
* saving the honour of God,' was now virtually 
suppressed : nor indeed was it necessary to retain 
it ; because there was now no wish shown to sub- 
ject the archbishop in ecclesiastical matters to the 
king's will. The king only made this stipulation, 
that the archbishop should return to England, 
from which however his majesty denied that he 
had ever expelled him, and there discharge his 
metropolitan duties in all respects as before, sub- 
mitting to all the royal customs and prerogatives, 
and that he should not under plea of the Church 
usurp what belongs to the king, nor would the king 
under plea of the royal prerogative claim any privi- 


leges which belonged to the Church. But the arch- 
bishop among other things spoke to the French 
king and the mediators about the property which 
he and his followers had been deprived of, urging 
both upon the clerks and laity who were present, 
the obligatory force of that divine precept, by 
which restitution is enforced before absolution 
can be given ; adding moreover, that it was un- 
becoming the royal magnificence to confiscate to 
his own use the goods of the poor and of the 
Church, and equally unlawful of him to make 
grants out of what was not his own : which was 
the same as if one should make an offering to one 
altar out of what he had robbed from another, or 
as if one should crucify Paul to redeem Peter 6 . 
Now he valued the amount of money of which 
he and his clerks had been deprived at thirty 
thousand marks [20,000/.] But the king of 
France and the other replied that it was equally 
discreditable and unlawful for him for the sake 
of money to stand in the way of peace, which was 
so necessary both for the kingdom and the 
Church, particularly between so great a king and 
so great an archbishop. They also, among other 
arguments, reminded him of their ancient 
friendship, and the benefits and services which 

8 Is this the origin of our modern proverb, " robbing Peter 
to pay Paul ?" 


had been conferred on both sides : remarking at the 
same time, that a holy and righteous pastor would 
not persist, if every other impediment was removed, 
in opposing a reconciliation, and alienating himself 
any longer from his Church, for the sake of a 
pecuniary consideration : he ought rather to em- 
brace the Church as his spouse, in the two arms 
of his love, and do his duty to her, no matter 
how torn or tattered might be her condition. 
However, the mediators said they would readily go 
and speak to the king on this subject. This they 
accordingly did, and his majesty replied, that, 
when the amount could be ascertained through 
his procurators, he would make restitution of all, 
according as his ministers should advise him : 
and whereas the archbishop had raised a question 
not only about moveables but also about fixtures, 
the king said that he would speak about them 
also in good time. 

"Thus every storm seemed to be blown over, 
and we were, as we thought, on the point of 
entering the harbour, when the archbishop, 
through the mediators, demanded some guarantee 
of the conditions ; not, as he said, because he 
suspected the king of treachery, but that he 
naturally entertained suspicions about some of 
the courtiers after so long a quarrel, and he 
wished that some outward sign or token of peace 
should pass between them. Now the archbishop, 


being a prudent man, had some days before the 
meeting consulted the apostolic pontiff what cau- 
tion he should require, if the king should allow 
him after so long variance to return to his Church. 
.To this question the pope replied, that as a church- 
man and priest he could not exact a pledge or 
oath from the king ; that the cause between 
them was one of justice and the peace of the 
Church, for which, whether in open quarrel or 
after peace was made, it was precious to yield 
one's life. None of the ordinary guarantees 
were therefore to be required in such a case ; 
* but,' added his holiness, ' if, God willing, you 
could prevail upon the king to let a kiss of peace 7 
pass between you, with that you might be con- 
tent, without requiring any other caution, unless 
it should be spontaneously offered.' 

"The archbishop, fortified by this advice, when 
every thing else was arranged, followed the pope's 
counsel, and desired that the king should give 
him a kiss as a token of their reconciliation ; but 
when the king received this communication 
through the mediators and the king of France, he 
replied, that he should have been very ready to 
do as the archbishop required, if he had not 

7 The custom of men kissing one another is still retained 
in every other country of Europe except Great Britain and 


formerly sworn publicly that he would never kiss 
him, even if he should at some future time be 
persuaded to make peace with him ; and that the 
sole cause of his refusing now to kiss the arch- 
bishop was his wish not to break his oath. 

" The king- of France and most of the media- 
tors hearing this, entertained a suspicion that 
under the honied words which had hitherto 
passed between them, they had perhaps been 
made to drink poison. So they returned in haste 
to the archbishop, who was waiting in the chapel 
of the Martyrdom, and reported the king's answer. 
And being timid men, and now entertaining sus- 
picion, they made no comment on the subject, but 
delivered duly the king's answ r er, just as he had 
spoken it. 

" Now the archbishop was one of the most wary 
of men, by reason of his experience of the world, 
and as soon as ever he heard the king's answer, 
he and his followers became alarmed. The first 
words which he uttered showed at once that he 
saw far into the future : for he did not wait to 
consult any one, but answered decisively and ab- 
solutely that at present he would not make peace 
with the king, unless, according to the advice of the 
apostolic pontiff, it should be ratified by the kiss of 
peace. This decisive reply cut short the conference, 
just as night was coming on : and the kings had a 
long journey before them to Mantes, where their 


quarters had been prepared, at the distance of 
thirty-six miles from Paris. 

"The king of England, who had been busy 
the whole day, and now had a long way to ride 
by night, repeatedly on his journey cursed the 
archbishop, reckoning up the various annoyances 
and causes of vexation which he had given him. 

" Whilst the kings thus took their departure, 
we retired to pass the night in a house called the 
Temple, belonging to the Templars, and situated 
just outside the walls of Paris. As we were leav- 
ing the chapel of the Martyrdom, in which the 
business of the day had been transacted, one of 
our people came up to the archbishop and ad- 
dressed him thus : ' My lord, this day's conference 
has been held in the chapel of the Martyrdom, 
and it is my belief that nothing but your martyr- 
dom will ever ensure peace to the Church.' ' Be 
it so,' answered the archbishop. ' God grant that 
she may be redeemed even if my life is sacri- 

After this the exiles again returned to St. 
Columba's, and a variety of letters passed between 
the different persons who had been engaged in 
the late events. 







" IT is impossible that the mind of the wicked 
can be at rest, when the pricks of his conscience 
are ever stinging him, and filling him with con- 
tinual alarm lest he should meet with the reward 
of his evil deeds. Anxiety ever preys upon his 
mind ; and whilst he assails all men, even his 
best friends, with suspicion, his consciousness of 
treachery denies in others the existence of that 
integrity which is wanting in himself. Thus the 
English king, when he heard of your journey, 
conscious of his guilt, and fearing that zeal for 
the law and for virtue, which you always feel, 
is alarmed, lest the legatine commission should 
be given you over his dominions, because there 
is no other in the Gallic Church who is able to 
repress or check his malice, nor is there any 
one in the Roman Church, of whom he has any 
fear, except my lord Gratian. For, if what he 
boasts is true, he will find no difficulty in con- 



verting to his own views all that are sent to him, 
and most commonly not without some stain upon 
their fair fame. He hears that Gratian returned 
in your company, and he cannot conceal the 
uneasiness which this gives him, lest by your 
means he should be compelled to make peace, 
or to submit to great loss both of money and 

" For these reasons, he sent letters to recall 
Vivian, together with letters from the archbishop 
of Rouen and Geoffrey Ridel. And he pledged 
his word to Vivian, as the latter has publicly 
acknowledged, that in re-establishing the peace 
of the Church he will be guided by the advice 
of Vivian and the pope. He also caused letters 
to be sealed with his own seal, which he shewed 
to whomsoever he pleased, in which he promised 
that for the love of our lord the pope he would 
restore to us the Church of Canterbury and all 
the possessions which have been taken from us, 
in full peace and security, that by these means 
he might induce Vivian to treat of some mode 
of peace, which, whatever others may say, he 
seemed to be anxious about, solely from fear of 
Gratian and you. He did not, however, mention 
the things which have been taken from us, except 
so far as hinting, that if we would follow Vivian's 
decision in making peace, he would place us at 
the head of his kingdom, and on no account 


suffer us to be in want. Vivian was, therefore, 
recalled, and listened to what was thus proposed, 
upon which the king, under pretence of devo- 
tion, set out for St. Denys, but in reality to do 
what he has almost succeeded in doing, namely, 
to circumvent his most Christian majesty. For 
it was agreed between them in the conference 
at St. Denys, that he should commit his son, 
Richard, to the care of the king of France to be 
educated, and that the count of St. Giles should 
be summoned to Tours to answer to the said 
prince Richard for the county of Toulouse. 

" The king of France, master Vivian, and the 
other wise men, compelled us to go to the con- 
ference, that so whilst we were at Paris and the 
king at St. Denys, peace might more easily be 
made between us. But when Vivian urged him 
to fulfil his promise, he retracted, as he always 
does, and showed himself in such colours that 
Vivian, coming back to us, said publicly that he 
did not remember to have ever seen or heard 
of a greater liar. And we afterwards heard that 
Vivian did not spare him, but told him plainly 
to his face all that the circumstances justified 
his saying ; so that, by thus reproving the king's 
duplicity, he in a great measure has redeemed his 
own reputation, which he had somewhat injured 
by suffering himself to be so cajoled and over- 
reached. We make you acquainted with these 



particulars, that you may inform the pope of 
them, in case Vivian should, on his return to 
Rome, affect to throw a veil over the tricks of 
that deceiver. For as Providence so ordered 
it that Gratian, after conducting himself most 
honourably, returned to Rome, and you, whom 
God has made a pillar in the Church, and who 
know the man so well, should at this moment 
be on a visit to the Roman see, so do we believe 
it is by God's especial over-ruling that Vivian, 
whatever might be his inward sentiments, has 
remained in France, to illustrate the Church's 
righteousness and to vindicate the honour of 
Gratian. Thus the king's own partizan has 
helped to undeceive the world about his real in- 
tentions, and our lord the pope and the whole 
court will in future be less liable to be circum- 
vented by his stratagems. 

" When the king of England was returning 
from St. Denys, we met him at Montmartre, and 
the venerable prelates of Rouen and Seez and 
others presented to him a petition from us, that 
for the love of God and our lord the pope, he 
would grant to us and to ours his grace, with 
peace and security, together with the restoration 
of all our possessions, whilst we offered on our 
part to show towards him all the obedience which 
an archbishop owes to his king. He replied that 
he readily, for his part, forgave us for every cause 


of offence he had ever had against us ; and as 
touching any claims or complaints we might have 
against him, he was ready to stand by the de- 
cision of the king of France or the clergy of 
France, or the scholars of Paris. We rejoined 
to this, that we had no objection to refer the 
question to the king's courts or to the church 
of France, but we would rather that he should 
arrange it amicably with us than refer it to a 
court of law. And if he was ready to restore 
to us our Church and our property, together with 
full peace and security ratified by a kiss of peace, 
we said that we were ready to receive them, and 
we demanded that half of the movables should 
be restored to the Church to pay our debts, to 
repair our houses and farms, and to restore many 
things about them, which by the fraud and rob- 
bery of his officials had been reduced to the 
last stage of dilapidation. And to prevent our 
demands from appearing immoderate, and at the 
same time to guard against his lubricity, and 
hold him to the engagement, we had our petition 
put into writing, and modified according to the 
views of the messengers who passed between 
us. This petition, of which we here send you 
a copy, was presented to him in public, that all 
might see we did not refuse to accede to any 
terms that might be at all tolerable for the Church. 
This writing was read and approved by all for 


its moderation ; upon which the king said some- 
thing in his mother's language, but in so involved 
and intricate a style, for he has abundance of 
words at his command, that whilst plain men 
would take for granted that he yielded every 
thing, the more acute hearers saw that this assent 
was qualified by certain most perverse and in- 
tolerable conditions. All, however, agree in one 
point, that he refused to give us the kiss of 
peace. His most Christian majesty immediately 
said that he would not advise me, for his weight 
in gold, to return to England without receiving 
in public the kiss of peace. Count Theobald 
added, that it would be perfect madness, whilst 
many of those who were present recalled to mind 
and whispered to one another the fate of Robert 
de Silli, who had not found even the kiss of 
peace a sufficient protection. But the king did 
not even send us his answer, either through the 
bishops, who were the mediators, or through any 
other person, for whilst we were still waiting 
for his reply, he set off towards Mantes. On 
the way they brought to him the king of France's 
dear little prince Philip, whom he received, as 
they say, with a melancholy look, and when he 
had spoken two or three words to him, hastily 
sent him away. God, however, inspired it into 
the mind of that chosen youth, that he opened 
his mouth, and to the surprise of the bystanders, 


warned his majesty to love France and its king, 
and that would ensure him favour both before God 
and man. The king- of France accompanied him 
to Mantes, and from thence almost to Passy, 
expecting to receive prince Richard into his 
charge ; but the king said he would consign him 
to his care at their next meeting at Tours, so 
that it became evident they had been cheated. 
Thus it appears that the two kings parted worse 
friends than they had met. It is also thought 
that the next interview, to which he alludes, will 
never take place, because it is liable to so many 
impediments. Thus we returned, without any 
reply from the king, to the refuge which God 
has provided us, casting all our hopes on Him, 
who never deserts those who repose all their trust 
in Him and await his consolation. 

" But the king of England, they say, after- 
wards sent a messenger to Vivian with fifty 
marks, requesting him again to interest him- 
self in making peace. But Vivian, as we are 
credibly informed, rejected the gold and replied 
by a letter, of which we send you a copy. The 
king has no other cause for being alarmed than 
the journey of Gratian and yourself to Rome ; 
and he is only trying to catch Vivian, to prevent 
his falling into your hands, or Gratian's. They 
tell me that he has sent Giles, archdeacon of 
Rouen, John of Oxford, and John of Seez, to 


the court, to prevent your getting the legation 
over his dominions, or anything else being done 
that may injure him or the count of Flanders. 
You know something of the messengers by sight, 
but perhaps our people who are with you on 
our business, will know them better. Since, 
therefore, the man is so afraid of your integrity 
and of Gratian's, which he knows by experience, 
it is as clear as the day, that if our lord the pope 
had frightened him at first with the authority 
of the supreme pontiff, rather than borne with 
him after the affection of a father, the. Church 
of God would long ago have been enjoying tran- 
quillity, and a stop been put to the fury of a 
man, who unrelentingly persecutes the weak and 
yielding, but submits at once to those who boldly 
resist him. 

" We have poured our complaints into your 
ear in part, because we would not weary you 
by telling you everything : your kindness- will 
take care to ensure for us, from the pope, such 
a peace as may be creditable for us, for the 
Church, and for himself : for all eyes are now 
turned to see what he will do in this cause. If 
the robber will not restore what he has taken, 
or make compensation for it, or shall extort from 
us some new obligation by the authority of the 
holy pontiff, the pernicious precedent will never 
be set aside, but Mill pass to other countries. 


What less can we ask of him than that which 
is contained in the petition below, drawn up and 
corrected by his own party ? If our lord the 
pope will even now send back his messengers 
in confusion, and prepare to lay heavy hand on 
his dominions on this side of the sea, there is 
no demand which he may not get conceded to 
us without difficulty or delay. For the nobles 
favour the Church ; it is only the clergy who 
water with their exhortations the madness which 
their evil counsels planted. Some of these in 
England are revelling in the sufferings of the 
Church, whilst others are running to and fro to 
excite the apostolic see and all the temporal 
powers in Christendom to conspire against her. 
We are compelled to add, and we do so with 
shame and sorrow, that whilst the temporal 
powers will not have anything to do with this 
great iniquity, there are always found some at 
Rome, whom they boast of having won over to 
share in their wickedness." 



" WHAT took place at the conference of the 
kings on the octave of St. Martin, [Nov. 18,] 
at St. Denys, you will learn more fully from the 


letter which we forwarded to his lordship of Sens. 
But because we did not want to weary him, we 
have here set down in writing certain matters 
which we wish you to communicate to him by 
word of mouth. 

" Their lordships of Rouen and Seez, who had 
undertaken to mediate, required that we should 
name expressly all such of the possessions of the 
see of Canterbury as we wished to be restored. 
We answered that the length of our absence and 
the cessation of intercourse with England, had 
made it impossible for us to know what the king 
or his officers had alienated ; but that we re- 
quired the restoration of everything which had 
been held by our predecessor of blessed memory, 
Theobald, and which we ourself came into posses- 
sion of, on our accession to the see of Canterbury, 
and which we held afterwards when we went 
to the council of Tours, and always till the king 
began to persecute us. And besides these, we 
demanded and still demand the land which was 
held of us by Henry of Essex ; for since, on his 
being disinherited, the land which he held under 
the crown escheated to the king, so ought those 
which he held under the archbishopric to escheat 
to us. We demand likewise the fee of William 
de Ros, which the king took from us, contrary 
to the oath he made to king Stephen on being 
adopted as his son, and as heir to the kingdom. 

11 69.] JOHN AND ALEXANDER. 235 

For on that occasion he swore solemnly and pub- 
licly, that he would preserve to the Church all 
that his lord and adopted father had bestowed 
on it. Moreover, he has taken from us the lands 
of Muncheham, and most unjustly and irreligiously 
bestowed it on John Mareschal, on whom and 
on his children, the intended heirs of this sacri- 
lege, the blessed Anselm, as you know, took 
vengeance ; for by the providence of God they 
all died shortly after. These three possessions 
then, namely, of Henry, of William, and that 
bestowed on John, we expressly required and 
do still require to be restored to us, choosing 
rather to remain in exile for ever, than to buy 
peace with the goods of the Church. 

" The mediators expressed hopes of procuring 
the restitution of these possessions, but about the 
movable goods they spoke less hopefully : yet his 
lordship of Seez and master Vivian asserted, on 
the king's authority as they said, that if the ne- 
gotiation succeeded, a thousand marks should be 
paid me in lieu of them. We had demanded a 
moiety of the goods, leaving the rest to be de- 
cided by his lordship the pope or a council of 
holy men. For we feared above every thing the 
evil which might result from such a precedent, 
and we feared as much on account of the king's 
salvation as of our own of our own on the one 
hand if we should connive at such sacrilege, of 


his, on the other hand, because if he did not make 
restitution or satisfaction, his offence could not be 
forgiven him. Now there are many kinds of 
compensation, which he might offer without much 
loss, and which we are ready to accept. For that 
we should grant him absolution, whilst he is still 
unrepentant for what he has taken from God's 
Church, is a point which nothing shall induce us 
to consent to. If, however, he will repent, and 
make compensation in part, we for the rest will 
bear with him in all patience, for the devotion 
which he shall show to the Church, and the affec- 
tion which he shall show towards ourself. For 
it is expedient both to the Church of Rome and 
the Church of England that he shall have some- 
thing in his own possession, which may be ob- 
jected to him when he is planning disturbance or 
disaffection. Otherwise, if a man should divest 
him altogether of it, he would only arm his fero- 
city to destroy the Church. 

"The king is now so circumstanced, and has 
been so alarmed by the journey of his lordship of 
Sens, and of Gratian, whose praise is spoken in 
both kingdoms, that, whatever he may pretend 
and threaten, he would not dare to refuse any 
thing, were his lordship the pope but to raise his 
hand against his continental dominions, and to 
dismiss his envoys in disgrace. 

" He has lately sent Geoffrey Ridel to England 


to torment the ecclesiastics, and extort nefarious 
oaths from them ; and this person, together with 
Richard, archdeacon of Poitiers, and the other 
officers of state, have summoned all the bishops 
to London in the king's name, to give security 
that they will observe the king's edict, and re- 
ceive no messenger from his lordship the pope or 
ourself without the king's permission, nor obey 
any interdict, if such should be promulgated, nor 
pronounce any anathema against any of the king's 
faithful subjects. However, none of the bishops, 
nor any of the abbats, except him of St. Augus- 
tine's, chose to obey the summons. First of all 
his lordship of Winchester publicly protested, 
and declared that, while he lived, he would 
through all things obey the apostolic decrees, and 
those of the Church of Canterbury, to which he 
has professed his fealty and obedience : also he 
has charged all his clergy to do likewise. The 
bishop of Exeter followed his example, pre- 
pared to obey in all things ; and has taken refuge 
in a religious house till the storm of iniquity 
passes over. His lordship of Norwich, though 
expressly forbidden in the king's name and in 
the presence of his officers, has nevertheless ex- 
communicated Earl Hugh and the others, as he 
was instructed : on descending from the pulpit he 
placed his pastoral staff upon the altar, saying 
that he would see who dared extend a hand 


against the Church and its possessions. He has 
entered the cloister, and is living with the 
brethren. So likewise his lordship of Chester is 
ready to execute all orders ; and, to secure him- 
self from the officers, has taken refuge in that 
part of his diocese where the Welsh live. 

" From all this it is clear, that if his lordship 
the pope acts vigorously, and does not wilfully 
reject the crown thus prepared for him by the 
Lord, he may now triumph in England, to the 
glory of God and the everlasting honour of the 
apostolic see. The impious one knows not where 
to turn himself, but, as those who are about him 
say, has every where before his eyes his lordship 
of Sens, and that son of grace Gratian, whose 
credit is much advanced by the delay which 
Vivian has made, for the latter is now convinced 
of the king of England's deceits, and does not 
cease to publish them in the streets. When he 
does this at Rome, Gratian's conduct will be fully 

"You must yourself do your best, and beg 
lord Hyacinth to do so too, as he promised he 
would, that the king's envoys may be baffled. If 
he does so and acts faithfully by us, give our 
lord the pope the letters which we have written 
in his behalf. For as we have heard on good 
authority, he now in his departure has reproached 
the king with falsehood, and has in a great mea- 


sure redeemed his reputation, which he had 
before injured. If, however, he shows a disposi- 
tion to play two parts, which we do cot believe, 
for he is said to have been inaccessible to bribes, 
retain the letters, and keep an eye upon him 
that he may do no harm. We have been urged 
by some, with the king's privity and consent, to 
go and meet him in Normandy ; nor have we any 
objection to comply, if we are met on the fron- 
tiers, as was promised, by any one who will 
guarantee our safe conduct. But you must en- 
deavour to persuade the pope to forbid our in- 
curring any new obligation, not warranted by the 
customs of the Anglican and Gallican Churches, 
and not to depart from the form which we sent 
in writing to the king, to command that a decent 
portion of our property shall be restored to us, 
to alarm the king by the threat of an interdict 
on his continental dominions, to write earnestly 
to the king charging him to receive us in the 
kiss of peace, and to issue fresh letters com- 
manding the restoration of the lands which we 
named as having been taken away from the see 
of Canterbury, the restoration of which is essen- 
tial to the peace. He must forbid us to absolve 
any of the excommunicates unless they submit 
to take the oath, according to the forms of the 
Church. For among all the prerogatives of his 
constitutions which he claims to God's prejudice, 


if we may believe men of experience, this is the 
most pernicious. If he fails in his presumption 
on this point, he will not, we trust, insist upon 
the other, lest he be again confounded. Further- 
more, his holiness should write and thank his most 
Christian majesty for the consolation he has held 
out to us, pointing out to him what a sin and 
sacrilege it is to take the property of the Church, 
and without just cause to defraud ecclesiastics of 
their goods, and how impossible it is to forgive 
sin, unless there be repentance and restitution 
when there is opportunity of making it. If 
stolen property is not restored, it is but a vision- 
ary repentance, and so far from leading to salva- 
tion, serves to accumulate greater damnation. 
" We forward to you the petition 9 which we 

9 As this written petition has been frequently alluded to, we 
subjoin both it and the king's answer. 


" WE ask of our lord the king, by the command and with the 
advice of our lord the pope, that for the love of God and of 
our lord the pope, for the honour of our holy Church, and the 
salvation both of himself and his heirs, he shall receive into 
his favour all those who in our behalf and in our company 
have been exiled from the kingdom, and grant to us his peace 
and full security at the hands both of himself and his partizans 
without reserve, and restore to us the Church of Canterbury as 
fully and freely as we held it when we were made archbishop, 
together with all its possessions to have and to hold as freely, 
as peaceably, and honourably as the Church and we had and 


offered to the king, and desire that you do not 
depart from it, unless you can better our cause, 
also the letter which we sent to Master Vivian, 
and which, as we have heard, he forwarded to the 
king. You will thus be better provided for ad- 
vancing the Church's interests. If any of the 
talkers presume to blame us for not entering the 
king's dominions without the kiss of peace, let 

held them when we were promoted to be archbishop ; and in 
the same way shall allow our followers to have all the 
churches and prebends belonging to the archbishopric, which 
have fallen vacant since we left the kingdom, that we may 
deal with them as with our own, as shall seem good to us, 
and we will perform to him all that an archbishop owes to 
his king and prince, saving the honour of God and our own 


" FOR the love of God and of our lord the pope, for the salva- 
tion of ourselves and of our heirs, I remit to the archbishop of 
Canterbury and to his adherents who are in exile with him 
and on his behalf, all my anger and offence, and I forgive the 
same all the previous quarrels whatsoever that I may have had 
against him ; and I grant to him and his adherents true peace 
and security from me and mine ; and I restore to him the 
Church of Canterbury, as fully as he held it when he was 
made archbishop, together with all the possessions which the 
Church and he have had and held, to have and to hold, as 
freely and honourably as he and his adherents had and held 
them ; and likewise I restore to him all the churches and prae- 
bends belonging to the archbishopric, which have fallen vacant, 
since the archbishop left the kingdom, to do with the same as 
shall seem to him good, saving the honour of my kingdom." 



them remember the case of Robert de Silli, who 
was not safe either by the kiss or by the pledge 
given to the king of France : and unless they are 
out of their senses, they will not, I think, blame 

" May God direct both you and me too, that we 
may do his will in all things, and whether by joy 
or sorrow to ourselves, restore liberty to his 
Church. You will communicate this to his lord- 
ship of Ostia, and tell him also what I wrote to 
the archbishop of Sens, and as he shall advise 
you, to other of our friends who are waiting for 
the redemption of Israel. 

" The bishop of Lizieux, as you know, perse- 
cutes us, and whilst he calls himself our friend, 
like Sinon, whose character he has all his life 
sustained, gives arms at one moment to the 
Greeks against the Amazons, and the next mo- 
ment to the Amazons against the Greeks : now 
assisting the state against the Church, and now the 
Church against the state. See what he has lately 
written for the bishop of London, whose deserts 
are well known to you, and then recall to mind 
the advice which he used to give us. You see how 
truly he is playing the part of Sinon, and the 
etymology of that cunning Grecian's name well 
applies to him, for he is always hesitating between 
Si! and Non! That priest and clerk of his 
lordship of Pavia has persevered to the end the 


same as he was in the beginning. What that is, 
I believe, my lord Gratian knows as well as I. 
For he sided with him when he was here, and 
since that he has always stuck to the king." 




" IT ought not to have slipped from your memory 
that on your binding yourselves by oath, we caused 
you to be absolved, on a prospect of peace being 
made. But because peace has not ensued ac- 
cording to our wishes, we intimated through the 
venerable archbishops of Rouen and Bourdeaux, 
that if peace should still not be made before 
the feast of St. Michael then ensuing, you should 
by no means avail yourself of the benefits of our 
absolution, but should without evasion or reserva- 
tion submit to the sentence which the archbishop 
of Canterbury has passed upon you. Since, there- 
fore, peace has not followed, and the archbishop 
aforesaid has replaced you under the same sen- 
tence, we command you by virtue of your oath 
to observe the sentence, until you shall obtain 
absolution. May God give you his grace to 
turn to Him, and do his will rather than that of 

Vivian also wrote a letter of similar import to 
the excommunicates. 

R 2 






WHILST the court of Rome, at the end of the 
year 1169, was exerting itself more vigorously 
than before to procure the restoration of the 
archbishop, king Henry was meditating a new 
attack upon his opponent by an infringement of 
the privileges which from time immemorial had 
belonged to the see of Canterbury. It was far 
from improbable that the sovereign pontiff, no 
longer entangled by his wars with the emperor 
Frederic, would at length let fall the full weight 
of his severity upon the English king ; and the 
foretaste which the archbishop had already given 
him of ecclesiastical discipline was a sufficient 
warning of what might be expected to follow. 
Two of his bishops and a large number of his 
immediate attendants were cut off from all the 
duties and privileges of social life. What would 
be the state of things, if his whole dominions 
should be laid under an interdict ; whereby every 
church throughout the country would be closed, 
every bell silent, no one to shrive the dying or 

1170.] THE KING AT NANTES. 245 

to bury the dead ; the marriage rite no longer 
to be obtained, and infants doomed either to 
die under the Church's curse, or to live without 
her benediction ; every bond of society loosed, 
and perhaps an especial anathema pronounced 
against the king's own person? All this had at 
one time or other happened since the establish- 
ment of the Church, and might happen again ; 
nor can we suppose that so acute a monarch as 
Henry II. would be blind to the probability that 
all this might now perhaps be hanging over his 
head. When, therefore, he kept Christmas at 
the beginning of the year 1170, at the city 
of Nantes, in Brittany, his thoughts again turned 
to a scheme which had before occurred to him 
for anticipating the designs of the enemy. The 
mode by which he proposed to effect this was, 
by transferring the sovereignty of his dominions, 
with all its responsibilities, to his eldest son, 
Henry, who had formerly been the archbishop's 
ward and pupil, and was about fifteen or sixteen 
years of age. This expedient, which in the end 
caused much annoyance to the king, by raising 
immediate hopes, which he was not disposed to 
gratify, in the mind of his son, appeared at this 
critical moment to be too advantageous to be 
lost sight of: and preparations were immediately 
made for carrying it into effect. But such an 
intention could not be kept secret, and was, more- 


over, difficult to be carried into execution. His 
active-minded adversary, the archbishop, was not 
likely to allow the sacred solemnity of the coro- 
nation to be performed by any other person than 
himself; and the king would of course be still 
more unlikely to allow the archbishop to officiate. 
Intelligence was speedily conveyed to Sens, that 
the project of crowning the young prince was 
again under consideration. This led to fresh 
messages from one to another, and a series of 
negotiations were set on foot, which occupied 
all the first half of the year 1170, without any 
fresh attempt to bring the principals in the dis- 
pute to any more conferences. But all the differ- 
ent parties were now engaged in what more 
immediately concerned themselves. The king 
was busy in receiving the homage of his new 
subjects in Bretagne, until the first week in Lent, 
[Feb. 18 26,] when he suddenly crossed to Eng- 
land, and was almost shipwrecked on the passage. 
The archbishop was doing his best to secure the 
fidelity of his suffragans, that they might prevent 
the young king from being crowned by any other 
than himself. The pope was exerting himself 
with more activity than usual to make peace for 
Becket. The bishop of London was endeavour- 
ing to obtain absolution, and was gone to Rome 
for that very purpose. Thus, though no promi- 
nent measures were taken for some months, yet 

1170.] BECKET TO THE POPE. 247 

all parties were engaged in different schemes, 
which by being brought simultaneously to a ter- 
mination, might prepare the way for a crisis, or 
in some way or other give a new appearance to 
the state of things. This actually did so turn 
out in the sequel ; and the facility with which 
a reconciliation was at last effected at Freitval, 
between the king and the archbishop, can be ac- 
counted for on no other grounds than the altered 
position or altered sentiments of the parties, which 
no longer held out motives for their continuing 
at variance. But some months were still to 
elapse before this longed-for reconciliation could 
be effected. The following letter from the arch- 
bishop to the king breathes the same feelings 
of loyalty as he always professed saving the 
king's constitutions. It bears no date, but seems 
to have been written about this time. 



" YOUR majesty's greatness may remember, how 
I offered in the presence of our lord the king of 
France and of several others who were present, 
to place myself, ' to the honour of God and your 
majesty,' on your royal mercy, that so I might 
recover your favour and have peace. But this 


form of words did not please you, my lord, unless 
I promised to observe the constitutions which my 
ancestors had observed towards yours. I sub- 
mitted, therefore, to observe them, as far as I 
could, * saving my own order,' and if I could 
promise anything more amply or more expressly, 
I was willing, under God, to do so, and am still 
willing, that by so doing I may regain your 
favour. And I never served you more readily 
than I am again prepared to serve you now. 
And whereas this did not satisfy your majesty, 
I entreat you to remember the services which 
I rendered you and the favours which you con- 
ferred upon me. For I do not forget that I am 
bound by oath to serve you in life and limb, and 
to show you all earthly honour ; and I am ready, 
so far as is consistent with my duty to God, to do 
all that I can for your majesty, as my dearest 
lord and master. And God knows that I never 
served you more readily than I would again, if it 
pleased your majesty. Farewell, my lord." 

The bishop of London, it will be remembered, 
was endeavouring at Rome to procure absolution 
from the sentence which the archbishop had 
passed upon him the preceding year. But the 
pope was unwilling to grant him absolution, for 
fear that the archbishop should take offence ; he, 
therefore, adopted the usual expedient in such 
cases, and referred Gilbert Foliot to the arch- 


bishop of Rouen and the bishop of Nevers, whom 
he deputed to carry the last message of the 
Church to the king of England. The pope's let- 
ter to these prelates, in which he grants them 
permission to absolve the bishop of London, is 
curious, for he enjoins secresy upon them, until 
the bishop's absolution could be made public 
with safety to his own person. We are left to 
guess what harm could have ensued from the 
fact becoming immediately known ; and it seems 
much more reasonable to suppose that this con- 
dition was inserted to prevent Becket from taking 
umbrage. As might have been expected, the 
prohibition was not observed, for the absolution 
which took place at Rouen, on Easter Sunday, 
was immediately noised abroad, and as the arch- 
bishop of Rouen performed it alone, without 
waiting for the presence of his colleague, the 
informality drew from Becket the following 



" THANKS to your kindness for the care which 
you have had of us ! I wish, however, that you 
had not exceeded the pope's instructions in the 


absolution, as you term it, of the bishop of Lon- 
don. You know how far you were authorized 
to act without your colleague in a business which 
concerned you both, particularly when your col- 
league had not been summoned, and it was by 
no means certain that he could not come if he 
had been summoned. Now the instructions were, 
that if either could not come, the other might 
act in his absence. Our lord the pope inserted 
this condition; but it has not been complied with, 
so that it is a question for men of experience in 
such things, to say how far what has been done 
fails from the failure of the prescribed condition. 
But why need I say more ? You know what you 
have done, and we, by God's permission, know 
how far your authority extended. But how is it 
possible to keep it secret? Let them see to it 
who know how, if indeed there be any one who 
can do so. For before we received your instruc- 
tions on the subject, it was already the public 
talk in the streets, and the bishop of London had 
already published it every where ; for he has 
celebrated divine service in our own city and 
cathedral Church." 




" I WISH, my dear friend, your ears were hard by 
the mouths of some of our people, that you might 
hear what is chaunted in the streets of Ascalon 
to the discredit of the Roman Church. Our last 
messengers seemed to have brought us some con- 
solation in the pope's letters which we have re- 
ceived, but their authority has been altogether 
nullified by other letters, commanding that Satan 
should be set free to the destruction of the 
Church. Thus by the apostolic mandate the 
bishops of London and Salisbury, one of whom 
is known to have been the fomenter of the 
schism, and the contriver of all this wickedness 
from the beginning, and to have inveigled the 
bishop of Salisbury and others into the crime of 
disobedience, have been absolved from excom- 
munication. I know not how it is ; but at your 
court Barabbas is always let go free, and Christ 
is crucified. Our proscription and the sufferings 
of the Church have now lasted nearly six years. 
The innocent, poor and exiled, are condemned 
before you, and for no other cause, I say con- 
scientiously, than because they are Christ's poor 
and helpless ones, and would not recede from 
God's righteousness: whilst on the other hand 


the sacrilegious, murderers, and robbers, are 
acquitted, however impenitent, though I say on 
Christ's own authority, that St. Peter himself, 
sitting on the tribunal, would have no power to 
acquit them. For he says, according to St. Luke, 
' If thy brother offend, rebuke him ; and if he be 
repentant, forgive him,' &c. These words, ' if he 
be repentant,' are not superfluous or idle. Christ 
will not have to give account for those words as 
idle on the day of judgment, He will rather con- 
demn those who presume, contrary to his com- 
mands, to forgive offenders who do not repent, 
and so to vivify souls that cannot live. Surely 
if what is stolen can be restored, and is not 
restored, that man's repentance is but feigned. 
The Holy Spirit will shun falsehood, for He is 
Truth itself. Let him take the burden upon him 
who dares to do so : let him absolve robbers, ho- 
micides, the sacrilegious, the perjured, the blood- 
thirsty, without repentance ; I for my part will 
never grant remission to the impenitent who have 
plundered the Church of God. Is it not the 
spoils of us, or rather of our Church, which the 
king's envoys are lavishing or promising among 
the cardinals and the courtiers ? What sin shall 
ever be revealed, if that which is committed 
against God's Church is concealed? We can no 
longer defend the liberty of the Church, because 
the apostolic see has now protracted our exile 


to the sixth year. O God, look to it and judge 
our cause ! Yet for that Church we are prepared 
to die. If all the cardinals rise up against us, and 
arm not only the English king, but all the world to 
our destruction, I will never, with God's blessing, 
either in life or in death, withdraw from my fidelity 
to the Church. I commit my cause for the future to 
God, for whom I am suffering exile and proscrip- 
tion. May He heal my sorrows as He deems 
best for me. I have no further occasion for 
troubling the Roman court, I will leave that for 
those who prevail in their evil deeds, who triumph 
over righteousness, lead innocence captive, and 
return victorious to the confusion of the Church. 
Would to God that looking to Rome had not 
killed so many of my fellow-exiles ! Who will in 
future resist the king, whom the Roman Church 
has inspired by so many triumphs, and armed 
with a pernicious precedent that will have due 
effect upon posterity ? God bless your holiness, 
and may you think of me in your prayers to the 

But what were the letters of consolation which 
the archbishop had received, the hopes which 
were thus suddenly quashed by the unlooked-for 
absolution of the bishop of London ? It has 
been related that the king spoke of his intention 
to crown the young prince his son, and that the 


archbishop as speedily exerted himself to prevent 
this solemnity from being performed. His clerks, 
Alexander and John, were again at the papal 
court, and in the early part of February, 1170, 
they received from their master the following 



" BE zealous in attending to our business, and use 
continued and unflinching diligence to counteract 
our adversaries, especially that spurious offspring 
of fornication, and enemy of the peace of the 
Church, that son of a priest, Reginald of Salis- 
bury, who is every where defaming our character 
to the utmost of his power, saying that we have 
acted treacherously, and that we promised him we 
would not in any way aggrieve his father '. We 
would no more make such a promise to him than 
to a dog. He says also that if our lord the pope 
was to die, he would get our name blotted out of 
the book of life, for he boasts that the court may 
be bribed to grant him what he likes. He has 
also suggested to the king of England to make 
a petition to our lord the pope, that he shall 

1 The bishop of Salisbury. 


grant permission to some English bishop to crown 
the king's son, and consecrate new bishops, and 
so deceive the pope. When the king replied to 
all this, that he did not believe the pope would 
consent, Reginald answered, ' Our lord the pope 
will act like a fool if he does not grant your 
requests/ We, therefore, entreat your kindness, 
for we confide unhesitatingly in your fidelity, to 
stand firm with our friend Hugotio of Rome, 
who is just gone back out of France, and with 
our other friends and your own, in defending our 
cause, and the justice and liberties of the Church; 
to the defeat and confusion of that fabrication of 
falsehood and deceit, that his wickedness may be 
revealed and recoil on his own head, that he may 
repent of ever having come to the court, and may 
be held up to the world as having been defeated 
in his schemes, as he deserves. For, as you know 
well, if our lord the pope were to lend an ear 
to the king's petitions in such a matter, which 
God forbid, he may be sure that the authority of 
the Roman Church in England will for ever fall, 
and no one shall ever again dare to mention the 
name of its apostolic authority. But if our lord 
the pope, as is best for him to do, sends away the 
king's ambassadors foiled and baffled, he may be 
sure that by God's mercy we shall immediately 
obtain peace. For the king of England insists 
most on these two points, the coronation of his 


son and the consecration of the bishops, and he 
will be compelled to make peace with us, if he 
sees the pope firm. Among other things take 
care not to talk with the above-named Hugotio 
on our business in presence of the cardinals or 
any other person, but take an opportunity of 
speaking to him privately about the settlement of 
our matters : so that no one may know there is 
any intimacy between you and him." 

The envoys of Becket were not idle in ac- 
complishing the archbishop's wishes : a papal re- 
script was immediately forwarded to Sens, enclos- 
ing letters to the archbishop of York and the 
other bishops of England, forbidding them to 
crown the young prince, or to implicate them- 
selves in any transactions which might tend to 
injure or deteriorate the primacy of the see of 

The two following letters appear to have been 
addressed to the archbishop of York in rapid suc- 
cession, or perhaps one of them may have been 
forwarded direct to that prelate, and the other 
enclosed under cover to the archbishop of Canter- 




" As we have been told on the authority of seve- 
ral informants, that the coronation of the kings 
of England belongs by ancient custom to the 
Church of Canterbury, we command you most 
authoritatively by these our letters, not to crown 
the king of England's son, if he shall ask you to 
do so, whilst our venerable brother Thomas, the 
archbishop of Canterbury, is in exile, or in any 
way to interfere in that cause. Which if any of 
you shall presume to do, yet know of a surety 
that the deed will redound to the peril of his 
orders and of his office, for we have determined 
that no appeal shall be listened to, and no excuse 

" Given at .... Feb. 26." 

1 The king's party pleaded afterwards that they had received 
permission from the pope that the archbishop of York should 
crown the young prince : and in fact the following letter is 
found in the same Bodleian MS., which contains the two pro- 
hibitory letters given in the text ; but it may have been sent 
twelve months previously and afterwards revoked. 


" WHEREAS, through our dearest son Henry king of the 
English, many benefits and advantages are known to have ac* 


258 THE POPE TO [CHAP, xxxvi. 



" SUCH is the dignity and precedence of the 
Church of Canterbury from ancient times, as we 
have heard, that the prelates of that see have 
always had the privilege of crowning and inau- 
gurating the kings of England in the beginning 
of their reign. For this cause it is that we, both 
from a sense of duty, and out of regard to our 
venerable brother Thomas, archbishop of that see, 
who is a most religious, honest, and pious man, 
and wishing to preserve to his Church all her 
rights and privileges without violation, do hereby 

crued to the Church of God in her necessities, and whereas we 
love him affectionately for the constancy of his devotion, so 
much the more anxious are we for everything which may ad- 
vance his honour and tend to his exaltation. For this cause 
it is that at the petition of the aforesaid king, and having con- 
sulted with our brethren, we hereby, on the authority of Saint 
Peter and our own authority, allow his eldest son Henry to be 
crowned in England. 

" Since then this duty devolves upon you, we command you 
by this apostolical letter, when summoned by the same our 
son the king, to place the crown upon his son's head by the 
authority of the holy see. And we do hereby confirm and 
give validity to all that you shall do in this behalf. And we 
command you to show him all due respect and obedience, and 
to enjoin the same on others, saving in all things the obedience 
due unto his father." 


forbid all men, by virtue of our apostolical au- 
thority, from presuming to crown the young king, 
if by chance this question should arise, without 
the consent of the aforesaid archbishop, or his 
successors, and of the Church of Canterbury, or 
in any way attempting to impugn or detract from 
the ancient privileges of that Church. 

" Given at the Lateran, April 7." 

These letters were the cause of the satisfaction 
to which the archbishop alluded, before his hopes 
were again destroyed by the absolution of the 
bishop of London. His next consideration was, 
in what way they should be conveyed across the 
water. The bishop of Worcester was on the 
point of returning to England, and the arch- 
bishop, availing himself of the circumstance, 
penned the following letters to the archbishop of 
York and to his lordship of Worcester. 




" YOUR discretion well knows that God will take 
vengeance on those who ungratefully return evil 
for good, and on those who avail themselves of 
an opportunity to injure their benefactors. It is 
not necessary to remind your excellency of the 



many and great benefits which you have received 
from the see of Canterbury, and how she pro- 
moted you to the highest office of the priesthood. 
Not only is this known to all, but it is doubtlessly 
fixed firmly in your own memory. And indeed, 
the same your Mother Church is ready, so long as 
your sanctity shall think fit, to continue the same 
course of love and regard towards you, and prays 
that you may recompense her with a reciprocity 
of kindness. Nor shall it be our fault, if we do 
not hold the unity of the spirit in the bond of 
peace towards you. Although we are proscribed 
and in exile, we hope by the grace of Him for 
whom we suffer, to be able to recompense you in 
the Lord. But we have perceived that whis- 
perers are at work, endeavouring to instigate your 
sincerity to injure the Church of Canterbury, by 
placing the crown on the head of the king's son, 
(God bless him !) and so raise him to the kingly 
dignity. But this is manifestly contrary to the 
prerogatives of our Church. If therefore any one 
harbours in his mind such a presumptuous inten- 
tion, our lord the pope forbids it, both to your- 
self and to all the other bishops of England : and 
we also forbid it on apostolic authority, and ap- 
peal against every one who shall implicate him- 
self in the act, and we fix the Purification of the 
Blessed Virgin as the term of our appeal. 

" We likewise forbid all who are under our au- 


thority, either in virtue of our metropolitan or of 
our legatine commission, under sentence of anathe- 
ma, to assist in so rash an act." 



" THE illustrious earl Robert of Gloucester, your 
father, though he had many sons, is thought to 
have loved you the best of all, because you were 
the son of his old age, and by Divine Providence, 
all the prudence and virtues of that excellent 
man have been transferred into that one of his 
children, whom, as his most precious gift, he has 
offered to the Lord. What a bold and magna- 
nimous man was that noble earl ! how he with- 
stood the might of a brave, generous, and influ- 
ential king, who possessed moreover the dukedom 
of Normandy and the county of Boulogne. He 
not only deprived him of his throne, but cast him 
into prison, and so little did he regard the ca- 
price of fortune in comparison with faith and 
virtue, that he feared no dangers if he could only 
uphold the obligation of an oath. At last he 
chose to be imprisoned rather than his sister and 
queen should suffer any diminution of her rights. 
Though fortune had thus made him a prisoner, 
yet he was so highly esteemed by the counsellors, 


that they gave up the king, and resigned the 
kingdom to obtain his release. Take courage 
from the contemplation of his virtues, and exem- 
plify to your contemporaries and to posterity the 
merits of him who has so ennobled your birth. 
To this is to be added that nobler title, your 
episcopal dignity, which, as it dignifies the deserv- 
ing, also degrades the base and abject. Salt, 
when it has lost its savour, is of no more account 
than dung, with which unfertile fields are ma- 
nured : for, as the martyr Cyprian says, ' If a 
bishop is timid, it is all over with him, 
for if the fear of the world renders him mute, 
he is entirely useless. Let charity then expel 
this fear and release the leader of the people, 
for when the leader faints with fear, his exhorta- 
tion fails to encourage the soldiers.' We believe 
that Divine Providence has led you in these days 
to cross the water, that you may perform your 
promise, and personally resist those who injure 
your mother the holy Church of Canterbury, and 
afflict her without provocation, and seek her life 
to take it away. That you may, with God's 
grace preventing you, the better effect this object, 
we have thought fit to furnish you with letters 
from our lord the pope, by way of weapons, that 
you may the more strongly confirm your 
brethren in the Lord. We ask you, therefore, 
and beseech you in our Lord Jesus Christ, and 


command you in virtue of your obedience and in 
peril of your office, honours, and benefice, to show 
the apostolical letters which we send you, to our 
venerable brother Roger of York, and our other 
brethren and fellow-bishops, and command on the 
authority of our lord the pope, that the aforesaid 
archbishop of York shall not presume, if re- 
quested, to consecrate the king's son, or to place 
the crown upon his head. We command you, 
also, on the same perils, to forbid the bishops of 
London and Salisbury and others, if they shall 
presume to undertake the same task. 

" God who is our judge is also our witness that 
we command this, not to wrong our lord the 
king or his son, or any Church, or any per- 
son, but because it is incumbent upon us to de- 
fend the rights of the Church of Canterbury. 
For we are ready, if it please the king, to crown 
his son, as is the duty of our office, and to show 
due honour and respect both to the father and 
to the son. Let not your faith waver, dearest 
brother, in executing this task, for God is faith- 
ful, and will not suffer you to be tempted beyond 
your strength. Trust in Him, who conquered 
the world, and remember that the snow shall 
overwhelm him who fears the frost, and he who 
shuns the arms of steel shall fall upon the bow of 
brass : 

' Fear proves the mind degenerate,' 


whereas grace shall help and glory crown the 
bold. Whatever others may do, we are per- 
suaded that no assailing storm shall ever shake 
your firmness, and that the words which have 
proceeded out of your mouth and are contained 
in your letter and in that of the bishop of Lisieux, 
stamped and impressed with the characters of 
both the writers, will not turn out in vain. God 
forbid that noble blood should be the residence 
of a degenerate spirit, that your father's title 
should be obliterated in you, or that the slightest 
trembling of the mind or hesitation of heart should 
call in question the judgment of your father 
who preferred you to all his other children. For 
according to the pious belief of the faithful, he 
lives more gloriously in the Lord than in his 
children, and according to your deeds, so may 
you gain or lose his favour." 

All these precautions were, however, baffled ; 
for although there was at first some difficulty in 
conquering the repugnance which several of the 
English bishops felt to intrude so palpably on the 
rights and duties of their primate, yet this re- 
luctance could hardly extend to the metropolitan 
of York, who backed by their lordships of Lon- 
don and Chichester yielded a ready assent to the 
king's wishes. We follow the narrative of Fitz- 
stephen in the account of what ensued. 

" The young prince was crowned the day before 


the feast of St. Vitus and Modertus, [June 18,] 
and the king immediately afterwards crossed into 
Normandy. When he had travelled about three 
miles beyond the town of Falaise, he fell in with 
the bishop of Worcester, who was advancing to 
meet him. Now the king had sent orders to 
the bishop to cross the sea, and be present at the 
coronation of his son ; but he had omitted to tell 
him that it was the archbishop of York who 
would perform the ceremony. The bishop ac- 
cordingly, hoping that everything was right, set 
out for England, and arrived at the port of 
Dieppe. The king had already sailed ; but the 
queen and Richard de Humet, the justiciary of 
Normandy, had remained behind, and they now 
sent letters to the bishop of Worcester, ordering 
him not to embark : to make sure of it, they sent 
other letters, addressed to the captains and sea- 
men who were in that port, forbidding them to 
take the bishop on board. These orders were 
given by the queen and Richard, because they 
knew that the bishop of Worcester would not 
consent that the young prince should be crowned 
by any other than the archbishop of Canterbury, 
and that if he were present at the ceremony, 
which they knew was going to be performed by 
the archbishop of York, he would certainly inter- 
fere to prevent it. Thus the bishop was detained 
in Normandy; and now, when he came to meet 


the king, the latter burst into one of his habitual 
fits of anger, and loaded the bishop with many 
opprobrious epithets , * Now I know,' said he, 
' that you are a traitor : for I commanded you to 
be present at my son's coronation, and you did 
not appear on the day I named. It is evident 
that you have no regard for me nor for my son's 
advancement. You favour my enemy, and are 
disaffected to myself: but do not expect that I 
shall let you keep the revenues of your bishopric. 
I will immediately deprive you of them, for you 
do not deserve to have a bishopric or any other 
ecclesiastical preferment. You cannot be the son 
of the good earl Robert, who brought us both up 
in his castle together, and had us taught the first 
elements of morals and learning.' The bishop, 
confident in his innocence, told the king in few 
words how it had happened, and that on his arrival 
at the sea-side, he had received letters, ordering 
him to proceed no further. The king would not 
believe him at first, and replied in great anger, 
' The queen is at this moment at Falaise, and 
Richard de Hamet is either there or will soon 
arrive : do you give them as your authorities ?' 
' Not the queen,' said the bishop, ' for either her 
respect or fear of you will make her conceal the 
truth, and so you will be more angry against me 
than you are at present ; or if she states the 
truth, your indignation will then fall on that 


noble lady : the matter is too trifling for her to 
hear one harsh word from you about it. I am 
glad things are in their present state, and that 
I was not a witness of the coronation, which was 
unjust, and contrary to God's law, not for any 
fault of the prince, but of the man who crowned 
him ; and if I had been there, I would not have 
allowed it. You say that I am not the son of 
earl Robert. I cannot tell whether I am or not ; 
but I am certain that I am the son of my mother, 
who was the companion of my father in the honours 
of the protectorate ; and you are exhibiting but 
a very sorry proof of being nephew to earl Robert, 
who bred you up so honourably, and fought 
against your enemy, king Stephen, sixteen years, 
until at last he was taken prisoner fighting in 
your cause. If you had reflected on all this, you 
would never have reduced all my brothers to 
nothing as you have done. Your grandfather, 
good king Henry, gave my brother, the earl, an 
honour of a thousand knights, and you have cur- 
tailed it to two hundred and fifty. My younger 
brother R. was a bold knight, as they say, and 
you have let him become so impoverished that 
he has been obliged to enter the hospital of Jeru- 
salem, and adopt their uniform to maintain him- 
self. This is your mode of recompensing your 
relations and friends ; and now you threaten to 
take away my bishopric. Be it so then, if you 


are not satisfied with the revenues of the arch- 
bishopric and six other sees, besides numerous 
abbacies, which you have already got hold of, 
at the risk of your soul's salvation.' All this 
was said aloud in the presence of the king's at- 
tendants, one of whom, a knight of Aquitaine, 
not knowing the bishop, asked who he was, and 
when he was told it was the bishop of Worcester, 
he replied, ' It is lucky for the king that he is 
a bishop and not a soldier : for if he were a 
soldier, he would not leave the king a couple 
of acres of land that he could call his own.' 
Another of those who were present, thinking to 
please the king, used opprobrious language to 
the bishop, but his majesty hearing it, was angry, 
and turning to the speaker, abused him heartily 
and said, * Do you think, you rascal, that if I 
choose to say what I like to my relation, the 
bishop, you or any other person is to abuse or 
threaten him ? I can hardly keep my hands off 
from your eyes : neither you nor any body else 
is to use your tongue in this way to a bishop.' 
They soon after went to their lodgings, and after 
dinner the king and he conversed together about 
the archbishop, and the propriety of making a 
reconciliation with him." 








OUR narrative, which, owing to the rapidity with 
which events succeeded one another, has been 
continually shifting from one place to another, 
must continue so to the last ; for at the very 
time that the king was infringing one of the most 
valued privileges of his antagonist, as has been 
just related, the archbishop and pope were con- 
certing measures for reducing him to a state of 
helplessness, by laying his kingdom under that 
dreaded ban of the Church AN INTERDICT. Let- 
ters containing the sentence were already pre- 
pared and placed in the hands of the archbishop, 
who had also drawn up forms of notice to the 
bishops of England ; and though the king at this 
moment gave way, and so rendered the publica- 
tion of these letters unnecessary, yet they have 


all come down to us in the same voluminous 
collection of letters which Alan, abbat of Tewkes- 
bury, afterwards put together, and from which we 
have already extracted so largely. The letter of 
notice to the bishop of London, now reconciled 
to Becket, and absolved as we have seen, may 
serve as an example of the others, which were 
conceived pretty much in the same words. 



" THE calamities of your mother, the holy Church 
of Canterbury, must be the better known to you, 
because from the proximity of our sees, and from 
having been on the spot personally (though, alas ! 
not in sympathy), you have had abundant oppor- 
tunities of knowing them. We have waited now 
nearly six full years for the repentance of our 
lord the king; but, with grief do we speak it, 
he has so abused the patience of the Lord and 
of the holy Roman Church, that his last deeds 
are worse than the former. Wherefore, lest by 
our too great lenity, the blood of the Church be 
required at our hands, we command you, by 
authority of the pope, in virtue of your obedience, 
in peril of your orders, dignity, and preferment, 
within fifteen days after the receipt of these let- 
ters, to forbid the celebration of divine service 


throughout all your diocese, except the baptism 
of infants and the penance of the dying, and to 
command this sentence of interdict to be invio- 
lably observed by all those under you. You will 
also communicate the letters of our lord the 
pope, which we here send you, to your brethren 
and colleagues, the other bishops, and when they 
have read them you will return them to us with- 
out delay ; taking care that no injury befals the 
bearer, as you wish respect to be shown to your- 
selves and to your order. And if you do not 
faithfully discharge this mandate, know of a 
surety that you will incur the peril of everlasting 

These missives were now ready to be despatched, 
and it is morally certain that the king would 
have been compelled by positive necessity to con- 
descend to much worse terms than those upon 
which peace was actually made. The emperor of 
Germany, Frederic, was a warning to all secular 
princes of the power of their spiritual Superior, 
and Louis of France would certainly not have 
let slip the opportunity of spoiling his too power- 
ful vassal of his French provinces. The arch- 
bishop, moreover, determined that he would not 
again procrastinate, as he had done previously 
to the young prince's coronation, for it was owing 
to his delay in sending the letters of prohibition 


that the king had succeeded in anticipating his 
intentions. Another element was also at work, 
which much facilitated a reconciliation. " Why 
do you persist in keeping the archbishop abroad?" 
said somebody to the king 3 , " he would be much 
better in England than out." The idea thus con- 
veyed might produce its effect on so shrewd a 
politician ; but the same shrewdness would in- 
duce him to conceal his motive ; still less likely 
would he be to acknowledge that fear of his 
enemy led him to concede : though Herbert de 
Bosham tells us that this was his motive. Let 
us hear his account of THE PEACE in his own 

" The king, therefore, seeing matters reduced 
to this extremity, promised to make peace with- 
out fail. Wherefore we were summoned to at- 
tend at a meeting which was to take place be- 
tween the kings, and we went thither accordingly. 
On the third day of the conference the business 
of the two kings w T as ended, and they immedi- 
ately began to consider how peace might be made 
between king Henry and us. The king of France 
went away, not wishing to be present in the busi- 
ness, and so we were handed over to the protection 
of certain great men of liis kingdom who were 
to mediate in our favour. But why need I mul- 

3 Fitz-stephen. 


tiply words ? Peace was there made between us, 
and the kiss which had before been the obsta- 
cle, w r as now neither demanded by the arch- 
bishop nor offered by the king. No mention 
was made of it : the king only granted us peace 
and security before the prelates and princes who 
were present. As regards the royal customs, 
and the property both moveable and immoveable 
which had been taken away from us, the same 
form of peace was observed now as we have be- 
fore described at the previous conference, where 
the refusal to grant the kiss was the impediment 
to oar success. And now Christ's champion, 
eager for peace, and not afraid of death, did not 
demand the kiss, lest this should be an impedi- 
ment to the peace, but he accepted the terms of 
it as they were offered, influenced rather by 
charity than by fear of death. This reconcilia- 
tion was made on the feast of St. Mary Magda- 
lene, on the borders of Maine and Chartraine, 
between two castles, one of which is called 
Viefui, the other Freitval, in the midst of a ver- 
dant meadow, which, as we have heard many 
years since the event, was called in ancient times, 
' Traitor's Field.' 

" But the king and archbishop turned aside on 
their horses and rode together towards a level 
place, talking in private to one another ; and 
there among other subjects the archbishop asked 

VOL. n. T 


permission without offence to inflict ecclesiastical 
punishment on the archbishop of York and his 
own suffragans for the injury which they had done 
to the prerogative of the Church of Canterbury 
by crowning the young prince Henry. To this 
the king assented : and the archbishop, grateful 
for this concession, immediately in the sight of 
all that were present jumped from his horse, and 
threw himself humbly at the king's feet. But 
when the archbishop was going to mount his 
horse again, the king held the stirrup for him, 
whilst all who were present looked on and won- 
dered, not knowing the cause, until the arch- 
bishop related it privately to his friends as they 
were returning. And then you might see the 
thoughts of many hearts revealed, especially 
among the courtiers, some of whom rejoiced, 
whilst others were downcast, because they had 
always up to that moment been contriving sedi- 
tion and discord. Others, however, showed neither 
joy nor sorrow at what had been done, for they 
suspected insincerity, and anticipated that the 
peace might lead to nothing but grief and dis- 
appointment. And in this they were not de- 
ceived, as the event showed." 

After the conference was concluded the arch- 
bishop returned with his clerks to St. Colum- 
ba, and immediately despatched messengers to 
England to prepare the way for his own re- 


turn. We find also that lie did not forget to 
purchase wines and other products for which 
France was famous as she is at present, for future 
consumption in the numerous houses and castles 
belonging to the see of Canterbury ; and the 
ferocity of the temporal barons once more, as we 
shall presently see, developed itself in the shame- 
ful conduct of his old enemy Ralph de Broc, 
who intercepted the archbishop's vessels on the 

The conduct of the bishops also, who had 
assisted in crowning the young prince, was not 
passed over. On application to the pope, that 
holy pontiff, now no longer dilatory, granted let- 
ters to the archbishop, inflicting condign punish- 
ment on the offenders ; but these, as we shall 
find by a future letter of the archbishop, were 
rather more severe than he wished, and were con- 
sequently exchanged for others. All this occu- 
pied the month of August, and perhaps part of 
September; for we have no date assigned to a 
mission on which our loquacious biographer Her- 
bert de Bosham was sent to the king, but it pro- 
bably was in the month of September : his words 
are these : 

" The archbishop came to this resolution, prin- 

(jipally because our lord the king had bargained 
that he would restore certain farms that were of 
the fee of Canterbury, namely, the fee of William 


de Ros, and Saltwood castle near Canterbury, 
which a great baron, Henry of East Saxony, or of 
Essex, as he is called, once held of the archbishop, 
before the duel in which he was vanquished. 
And besides these, the custody of Rochester castle, 
which the archbishop again and again constantly 
asserted to belong to his church. These were what 
the archbishop demanded, and what the king pro- 
mised to restore when he should return to Nor- 
mandy. Our lord therefore sent Master John of 
Salisbury, afterwards bishop of Chartres, of pious 
memory, and the disciple who wrote this his- 
tory, commanding us also, if the king should 
fulfil the promised restitution, to proceed after- 
wards to England, but if not, to return to him 
as speedily as possible. We therefore set out 
on our journey to Normandy, where we found 
the king ; but he was confined to his bed by a 
tertian fever, and from this cause we were de- 
tained there much longer than we expected. 
When the king was recovered from his illness, 
we had an interview with him in the name of 
the archbishop, on the subject of the restitution 
which he had promised to make. But in reply 
to our exhortations he put it off again and 
again, but at last in consequence of our ur- 
gency he gave us a final answer, addressing 
himself to Master John, who was the spokesman, 
in these words ! * O John, I shall by no means 


deliver up the castle to you until I see you be- 
have yourselves towards me in a rather different 
manner than you have lately done.' Having re- 
ceived this answer, and presuming that it was of 
no use to go to England, we returned to our lord 
in France as fast as we could." 

This reluctance on the king's part to fulfil his 
engagements is a sufficient proof that his majesty 
was not thoroughly reconciled to the archbishop, 
and the courtiers who were inimical to that prelate 
were not likely to lose sight of the circumstance. 
It seems also to furnish some argument for sup- 
posing that the peace was at last made for the 
purpose of getting the archbishop into the king's 
power, rather than from any real wish to be re- 



" YOUR commands have, to the best of our ability, 
been fulfilled : we delivered your letters to 
William de Eynesford and William Fitz-Nigel, 
and brought them with us on their peril to Lon- 
don, together with Thurstan and Osbert. When 
we were on the point of showing our letters to 
the younger king, not one of them ventured to 
appear in his presence ; for some one had given 


them a caution beforehand, and they declined 
being associated with us in this business. Thus 
ourselves, on whom the matter devolved, taking 
with us Robert the sexton of Canterbury, and 
having first consulted William Fitz-Aldel and 
Ralph Fitz-Stephen, went boldly to the king in 
his chamber at Westminster on the Monday after 
the feast of St. Michael, whilst he was sitting in 
company with earl Reginald, the archdeacons of 
Canterbury and Poitiers, William St. John, and 
many others. When they heard that peace was 
made, earl Reginald and several, but not all of the 
others, said at once, ' Thank God,' in the king's 
presence. But his majesty, when he had read 
the letters, said he would take counsel on the 
subject after our departure. He then called 
Walter de Lisle, and when he had asked his 
advice, we were again summoned, and in our 
presence your own archdeacon of Canterbury said 
as follows : ' Our lord the king has received the 
message and commands of his father, and has 
taken counsel thereon. His reply is this : Ran- 
dolf de Broc and his agents have held the lands 
and possessions of the archbishopric, together with 
the goods, churches, and revenues of the arch- 
bishop's clerks in different places, like all other 
agents, by order of the young king's father : and 
since the restoration cannot be seen to and 
effected without summoning the aforesaid agents, 


our lord the king assigns you Thursday which 
follows the morrow of St. Calixtus's day for carry- 
ing into force these orders.' In consequence of 
this protracted period, some assert that the peace 
which is said to have been made admits of a 
sinister interpretation, and others will not endure 
the arrival of this distant term : which is very 
natural. All your friends, therefore, whom we 
have found in England, are in despair about the 
peace, and are neither willing nor able to give 
credit to the king's letters which we showed with 
the seal attached, nor would they believe us who 
were present when the peace was made, and are 
ready to attest it on our oath. Some of us ap- 
proached the king, as he was on his journey from 
London to Windsor, and saluted him humbly and 
earnestly in your name : he answered us kindly, 
and with a much more cheerful look than he had 
before shown us in the audience before his 

" Many of our friends here tell us to advise 
you to remain about the king's person, if you can, 
until you have more fully recovered his favour 
and good-will. Almost all those with whom we 
have spoken love your person and your company, 
and you cannot imagine how eagerly they look 
forward to your coming, but fear compels them 
to dissemble their good-will. We have had good 
and credible information from one who was for- 


merly intimate with you, that our lord the king 
has sent Walter de Lisle with briefs to summon 
Roger of York, so called archbishop, Gilbert of 
London, and Joceline of Salisbury, and four or 
six persons, clerks, out of all the churches which 
are vacant in England, to elect bishops according 
to his pleasure and the advice of the above-named 
bishops, and when so elected, to send them to 
the supreme pontiff' to be consecrated, to the de- 
triment of the church of Canterbury and your 
own confusion, which may God avert ! This is 
why he is so eager for you to return to England, 
and persists so obstinately to put you to shame. 
We see every where too certain signs of this 
diabolical machination, and all the inhabitants of 
this country see them as well as we. For he 
of London, no true bishop, though he bears the 
name, has been stopping some time near Beverly, 
and pretended that he wished to pay his vows to 
St. John of that city, that so, like his master, he 
may detract from the deeds of him who is set 
over him, and in fact, with bloody hands, put 
him to death. For all these matters, my revered 
lord, you will not fail to make due provision, 
according to the wisdom which may be given 
you from above, that so, with watchful diligence 
and discreet mind, and with the aid of God, who 
never abandons those who trust in Him, you may 
burst through the snares with which they are 


trying to encompass you. For the rest, my lord, 
we heard that as soon as ever the king's letter 
was read, the younger king and the archdeacons 
immediately sent off a messenger into Normandy, 
but we do not know the nature of his instruc- 
tions. We, therefore, send the bearer of these 
to you in all haste, that you may be informed 
what we have heard. Do not delay to send the 
same or another in his stead back to us to make 
us acquainted with your wishes ; for as he will 
tell you by word of mouth, we are alone and 
unaided. No one has dared to obey your orders, 
except Robert the Sexton, who has done his best 
in the case. As soon as the act of restitution 
takes place, if it ever does, we will send you 
word. Farewell, my lord. The bearer will tell 
you some things which, although abominable, are 
yet true. They need not be told to more, where- 
fore, my lord, when you have heard them, let 
them, if you please, be buried in oblivion. We 
beg to remind you again and again not to return 
to England, till you are on better terms with the 
king. There is no one here among them on 
whom you trusted, who does not despair of the 
peace ; and they all avoid us, and will have no- 
thing to say to us, even those who ought to take 
part with you, and on whom we placed the great- 
est reliance." 




" FROM the moment, my father, that the trump 
of apostolic vengeance sounded in the king of 
"England's ear, and he believed that its severity 
was about to fall on himself and his dominions, 
he at once made peace with us, and promised 
that not one jot or tittle of your commands 
should be left undone. But having thus escaped 
the sentence which was impending, he has since, 
in some particulars, departed from his agreement ; 
for he still keeps back from us certain possessions 
of the Church, which our predecessor enjoyed 
without molestation all the days of his life, and 
ourselves also, before this storm began to blow 
upon the Church of England. We have more 
than once applied to him on the subject, but he 
promises that if we will have patience, and pay 
him due allegiance as formerly, he will satisfy us, 
and leave us no just cause for complaint. But these 
promises lose their weight with us, for we know 
the character of the man, and his deeds declare 
the same, and we have been unable to obtain 
from him anything but words. To explain this 
to you more fully, we have sent you the bearer 
with letters from our commissaries, whom we des- 
patched to regulate our affairs in England. In 

1170.] BECKET TO THE POPE. 283 

the meantime, we will take care not to rescind 
the treaty of peace which has been commenced, 
though it preys much upon our conscience, that 
we do not exert our pontifical authority in behalf 
of Christ's Church and his poor ones, who are 
exiled and proscribed in his behalf. We dread 
to furnish an example which, unless the Divine 
compassion prevent it, may be hurtful to poste- 
rity : but because your prudence and that of my 
lord's, who summoned you, has so wished it, we 
have kept silence for the sake of peace, though 
we whisper into your ears, with none else besides 
the Omnipotent to hear us, that the impenitent 
shall meet with no pardon or mercy at our hands. 
We know that at the tribunal of the last day, the 
great Judge will not pass over offences ; and 
the wounded and suffering Church is daily crying 
out to Him, ' Lord, I suffer violence, answer thou 
for me.' In her cry do we join, and for her 
behalf. Though meanwhile we clasp this shadow 
of reconciliation which is held out to us, until 
the day shall dawn and the shadows shall flit 
away and disappear. We will hold fast to the 
favour of this man as much as is possible, con- 
sistently with the liberties and honour of the 
Church, and will make trial by experiment whe- 
ther he can be brought back to tranquillity. 

" Your kindness has sent me letters conceived 
and dictated by the Spirit of God, wherein you 


administer rebuke and correction to the arch- 
bishop of York, and our fellow-bishops, and check 
the excesses of the king in a manner worthy of 
the successor of St. Peter and Christ's vicegerent. 
But we fear, lest harsh language may irritate the 
tender ears of so great a potentate and impede 
the reconciliation ; and we humbly entreat your 
holiness to omit all mention of the king's ex- 
cesses, and the enormity of the oath which he has 
administered, of the depraved customs and the 
irregularity of the young king's coronation, and 
to inflict the sentence on the above-named arch- 
bishop and bishops for having presumed to per- 
form the coronation in our province, when we 
were suffering exile in the cause of justice and 
the Church's liberties ; though all men know that 
this is a privilege which belongs to our see, and 
of which it ought never to be deprived without 
a trial. In this way we trust, their presumption 
may be easily and conveniently punished, to the 
glory of God and the honour of the apostolic see, 
and yet no impediment be thrown in the way of 
the reconciliation. We also deem it necessary 
that you should write earnestly to our lord the 
king, for to this end are you placed in this holy 
pontificate, as it were in a watch-tower, to ex- 
amine into the causes of all the faithful, and deal 
forth to them reward or punishment according 
to their deserts. No one, therefore, should be 

1170.] BECKET TO THE POPE. 285 

offended at being obliged to act at your bidding, 
that he may not be sent in the presence of angels 
and men into the fire which is everlasting. You 
have shown much deference to the king, but 
though you have spared him, you do not dare 
dissemble the excesses and crimes of priests. 
Moreover, as we fear, lest various causes may 
interfere to obstruct and embarrass our recon- 
ciliation, we pray you to commit the suspension 
or excommunication of the bishops to our own 
judgment, for which we shall render an account, 
excepting always, if you shall think fit, the arch- 
bishop of York, who is the stirrer up and head 
of all these evils. And although the bishop of 
London has been the standard-bearer of this 
sedition, not to say schism, we entreat you to 
give us power to pardon him and the bishop of 
Salisbury, if we find that they cannot be punished 
without a renewal of the schism. And whereas, 
you have commanded us to proceed in this mat- 
ter by the advice of his most Christian majesty, 
the king of France, in showing or suppressing 
your letters, it is his advice to us that we should 
obtain special letters to suspend the archbishop 
of York without touching the king, and others 
to excommunicate the two bishops, with others 
also containing the excommunication of all the 
bishops generally. These we shall also use ac- 
cording as the occasion or the emergency shall 


require. For the English Church, though about 
to enter the port, still struggles with the waves, 
and unless the king fulfils the conditions of peace, 
she requires to be armed against her enemies and 
persecutors by your protection and consolation. 
To ensure this, your holiness should command 
our venerable brother of Meaux and the pious 
abbat of St. Crispin's, Soissons, to wait on the 
king and summon him to restore our possessions, 
and make good our losses at the peril of eccle- 
siastical censure lighting upon him if he disobeys 
your instructions. In that case, we entreat your 
holiness to confer on us the same authority which 
you conferred on the bishops of Rouen and 
Nevers, or even greater ; for the more powerful 
and fierce the individual, the stronger should the 
bonds be to bind him, the stouter the staff with 
which he is corrected. 

" The source of all these disturbances is to be 
found in the attempt which the archbishop of 
York made to withdraw his church from its obe- 
dience to the church of Canterbury. Restore 
unity, therefore, if it please your highness, to the 
English Church, by commanding the archbishop 
and clergy of York to recognize, without delay 
or appeal, the primacy and privileges of our see. 
If you wish to follow in the steps of your prede- 
cessors, inspect their registers and you will find it 
impossible to do otherwise. God knows that we 


do not ask this for our own glory : would to God 
that we had never undertaken this pastoral office, 
pregnant as it is with everlasting death, or at least, 
innumerable woes ! but it is our wish to remove 
every occasion of schism in these our days, and by 
your bounty to restore perpetual peace to the Eng- 
lish Church. We say this to you before Him, who 
is the Judge of both of us, and to whom we must 
give account for all things. May He inspire you 
and show you what you ought to do. You have 
heard our anguish, but according to a proverb of 
our country, those only feel the heat who are 
near the fire. 

" We believe that we shall return to England, 
but whether for peace or suffering, we know not. 
God knows in His providence what our lot shall 
be. We commend our lives to your prayers, 
holy father, and thank you for all the consolation 
you have given us in our time of need. Be as- 
sured, moreover, that our venerable brother, 
Bartholomew of Exeter, is free from the sin of 
the coronation, and has suffered much for righte- 
ousness' sake, from the adversaries of the Church. 



" IT is known to the Inspector of the heart, the 


Judge of souls, the Avenger of crimes, Jesus 
Christ, in what purity and sincerity we made 
peace with you, believing that we should be met 
with singleness of heart and good faith. For 
what other conclusions, my most serene lord, 
could be drawn from your words which your 
kindness addressed to us, either to convince or 
to pacify us ? You sent letters to my lord the 
young king, your son, that he should restore to 
us and to our adherents all the possessions which 
we had before we left England ; what idea could 
w r e form from them, but of benevolence, peace, 
and security ? But lo ! your honour is at stake, 
which, God knows, we value beyond your profit, 
and the sequel shows neither good faith nor 
singleness of heart. For the restitution, which 
you commanded to be made to us, is put off to 
the tenth day under pretence of Randolf de Broc, 
whose presence your son's counsellors thought 
necessary to the performance of your orders. 
Who those counsellors are, and with what fidelity 
to you they have acted in this matter, will be a 
subject for your enquiry, when it shall seem good 
to you. We, however, are persuaded that these 
things are done to the injury of the Church and 
to the loss of your own credit and salvation, if 
you do not correct them. For the aforesaid Ran- 
dolf is, in the meantime, seizing on the property 
of the Church, and openly storing up in Saltwood 

1170.] THE KING OF ENGLAND. 289 

castle the victuals which he has taken from us ; 
and as we have been told by those who can 
prove it to you whenever you shall demand it, he 
has boasted in the hearing of many, that we shall 
not long enjoy the peace which you have granted 
us ; and he threatens to take away our life, be- 
fore we have eaten one whole loaf in England. 
You know, my most serene lord, that the man 
who has the power to correct what is wrong and 
neglects it, becomes a party to the crime. The 
above-named Ralph can have nothing to do in 
the matter, unless backed by your wishes and 
supported by your authority. Your discretion 
will be made acquainted with the answer which 
he returns to the king your son's letter, and you 
will judge of it according to your good pleasure. 
And whereas the church of Canterbury, which is 
the spiritual mother of the British isles, is evi- 
dently perishing in consequence of the odium 
which falls on us, we will serve her at the peril of 
our own life ; we will expose our own head, with 
God's permission, to that persecuting Ralph and 
his accomplices ; he shall kill us, not once but a 
thousand times, if God will only, by his grace, 
give us strength and patience to endure it. 

" It was our intention, my lord, to return to 
you, but woe is me, necessity drives me to my 
suffering Church. I go thither by your licence 
and under your protection, to die in its behalf, 



unless your filial piety vouchsafe speedily to give 
me consolation. But whether we live or die, we 
are yours in the Lord, and ever will be : what- 
ever may happen to us and ours, may God bless 
you and your children !" 

A short time after this a conference was to be 
held at Tours between king Henry and Theobald 
count of Blois, and Becket determined on going 
thither himself to see the king : Henry on hearing 
that he was approaching that city, sent out some 
of his attendants to meet him, and afterwards 
went out himself. When they met, the bystan- 
ders remarked that the king's thoughts seemed 
totally occupied about the archbishop, though he 
very seldom fixed his eyes upon him, and no com- 
munication of any kind passed between the king 
and the attendants of Becket. The next morn- 
ing it was said that the archbishop w r ould pro- 
bably attend the king's chapel at the mass, when 
his majesty would be hardly able to avoid receiving 
the kiss of peace from the archbishop. At the sug- 
gestion of one of the courtiers the king ordered 
the mass " pro defunctis " to be said that morning, 
and so avoided the necessity of kissing the arch- 
bishop. After the service the two rode together 
on their way to the place where they were to 
meet the count of Blois, and did nothing but load 
one another with mutual reproaches, each remind- 

1170.] AT CHAUMONT. 291 

ing the other of the many services he had 
rendered, and from this beginning of the con- 
ference we are not disposed to wonder that they 
parted, notwithstanding the count of Blois's 
good offices, without coming to an understand- 
ing about the lands which the archbishop claimed 
to be restored. 

A short time after this, the king happened to 
be at Chaumont near the town of Blois, and the 
archbishop determined to pay him a visit, not of 
form or business, but in the same spirit which cha- 
racterised their early intimacy, when he was still 
chancellor. This meeting was consequently of a 
different character from the preceding : the king 
received him gladly and kindly, and as they were 
talking together, his majesty exclaimed, " Why is 
it that you will not do what I wish you ? I should 
put all my affairs into your hands, if you would 
only yield to my pleasure." When Becket after- 
wards told this speech of the king to Herbert 
de Bosham, he added, " I thought of the words 
which the devil said to Jesus Christ, 'All these 
things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and 
worship me.' " 

The archbishop returned to Sens, where he 
took leave of his hospitable entertainers, and 
began to make preparations for returning to Eng- 
land. Letters, however, arrived from Henry, 
which, though not unfriendly, caused a little un- 

u 2 


easiness to his party, in consequence of the 
doubtful character of the man by whom they 
were to be escorted. 



" BE it known to you that I could not meet you 
at Rouen according to "our agreement, because I 
received information from my friends in France 
that the French king was preparing to make an 
irruption upon my subjects in Auvergne, and dis- 
tress both them and my territory. The men of 
Auvergne sent me the same intelligence, and 
requested me to send them help. For this reason 
I was unable to meet you at Rouen as we agreed. 
I now send to you John dean of Salisbury, 
my favourite clerk, to escort you into England, 
and I have directed him to intimate to king 
Henry my son that you are to take possession of 
all your property without molestation, in all 
honour and good faith. And the same my son 
will redress any thing that has been done amiss, 
as concerns you or your see. And whereas many 
things have been reported to me and to my son 
about your delay in these parts, more than the 
truth, it is desirable in my opinion that you should 
cross the water as soon as possible. Witness the 
king himself at Loches." 


"The preparations for our departure," says 
Herbert, " were such as poor exiles could make : 
not that I mean to imply by the word poor, that 
the archbishop was accompanied by a mean or 
small train, for when we set off from Sens to 
travel down to the sea-coast, our party amounted, 
if I am not deceived, to no less than a hundred 





THE archbishop and his party arrived safely, 
under the escort of John the dean of Salisbury, 
at the sea-coast of Flanders. His mind was firmly 
made up to cross over into England by the first 
favourable wind, and a letter which he had just 
received from the pope encouraged him to per- 
severe in his design. He also bore with him 
letters to suspend the archbishop of York and 
the other bishops who had been present at the 
unlawful coronation of the young king, and to 
revoke the absolution of the bishops of London. 


and Salisbury, which had been granted provision- 
ally, thereby replacing them under their former 
sentence of excommunication. As these prelates 
were well acquainted with Becket's intention to 
return as soon as possible, they were already on 
their way to embark and cross over to the king 
into Normandy. But the archbishop thinking 
that this would probably be the course which they 
would pursue, determined to dispatch the letters 
in advance, that the bearer might have a better 
chance of delivering them before his own arrival. 
This was now done, and as fortune would have it, 
with unexpected success; for the three bishops 
were already at Dover, and on the point of em- 
barking, when the messenger 4 gave a most un- 
pleasant check to their haste, by serving on them 
the letters of suspension and of excommunication. 
During their delay on the Flemish coast the 
party amused themselves by walking on the beach, 
and looking at the vessels which entered or left 
the port. One day as they were thus engaged, 
Milo dean of Boulogne came towards them, and 
the archbishop supposing he was come to speak 
to him about the expenses of the voyage, began 
to address him on the subject ; but Milo replied, 
" That is not my business ; I have a message to 

4 This was perhaps Idonea the nun, to whom Becket ad- 
dressed a letter which has been given in vol. i. p. 192. 


you from the count of Boulogne : he bids you 
beware, for the English coast is beset with ene- 
mies, who will either murder you or make you 
prisoner, as soon as you land." The archbishop 
answered : " It is of no consequence to me ; for 
if I am torn limb from limb, I will go. It is now 
seven years since my church has been deprived of 
a pastor ; and it is my request, perhaps my last 
request, to my friends, that if I cannot return to 
Canterbury alive, they will carry me there dead." 
On the morning after the letters of excommuni- 
cation were sent they saw a ship which was just ar- 
rived from England, and fell into conversation with 
the sailors about the news from home, and what was 
thought of the archbishop's return. The seaman 
replied that every body would be glad to have 
him back again among them, and were looking 
out with great impatience for his landing. But 
one of them, who seemed to be the captain, took 
Herbert de Bosham aside and said to him, "Are 
you mad ? What folly is this ! Do you know that 
there is a body of soldiers waiting for you at the 
port where you intend to land, to seize you and 
your master ? So it is reported at least by those 
who have good opportunities of knowing. The 
whole country is exasperated against him, and 
particularly the king's party, who say that at your 
very first landing you have thrown every thing 
into confusion by anathematising and excommu- 


nicating the bishops : and this too, during the 
time of year which is our Lord's Advent, when 
you ought to do your utmost to preserve peace 
and tranquillity." Herbert de Bosham thanked 
the captain for his advice, and shortly afterwards 
heard the same intelligence from others of the 
party. He then took the bishop aside and com- 
municated to him what he heard. His words were 
overheard by master Gunter, a plain honest man, 
who had adhered to the archbishop through all he 
had suffered. " If I were asked my advice," said 
he, " I should say we had better not go on just at 
present, but remain quiet until this matter be a 
little blown over : for it will be much worse when 
the king comes to hear of the bishops being sus- 
pended." "And what do you say, Herbert?" said 
the archbishop. " My lord," replied Herbert, " it 
is difficult for me to hazard an opinion, and it is a 
pity that our learned clerks are not with us : but 
as they are either gone before us to England, or 
are about our business in France, we must come 
to the best decision we can without them. If we 
go back after having bidden farewell to all our 
friends out of England, and got the pope's licence 
and blessing, it will redound to our disadvantage 
and dishonour. It will be said that his lordship 
of Canterbury is again retreating as he did before 
at Northampton." 

These arguments, however, had but little weight 


with the archbishop : for he had already deter- 
mined that nothing should arrest his journey. 
Accordingly, on the 3rd 5 of December the party 
took ship with a fair wind and set sail for Eng- 
land "Look, my lord," said one of his clerks, 
" there is England," as they hastily hurried on 
board. " You are very eager to go," replied he, 
"but before we have been there forty days, you 
will wish yourselves any where else." 

But the warnings which had been given them 
before they started were not altogether to be ne- 
glected, and the steersmen received orders to alter 
the direction of their route and sail for Sandwich. 
This port belonged to the see of Canterbury, and 
its inhabitants were lieges of the archbishop. In 
a few hours they entered the harbour, and the 
cross of Canterbury which towered above the 
prow of the vessel, speedily drew the whole po- 
pulation of the town to the water's edge. 
Amongst others came the king's officers Gervais 
de Cornhill sheriff of Kent, and Reginald de 
Warenne, with a train of followers having arms 
under their clothes, but when they saw that the 
archbishop was escorted by the dean of Salisbury 

5 Duobus tribusve diebus exactis post festura beati An- 
dreae. Herb, de B. But Fitz-Stephen says that they em- 
barked on Tuesday the 1st of December. Becket says him- 
self, in his letter to the pope, that they crossed the day after the 
messenger who bore the letters of excommunication. 


they abstained from violence, and contented 
themselves with demanding whether there were 
any foreigners on board, that they might exact 
of them the oath which the king required, to the 
effect that they had no intentions hostile or sinis- 
ter to the peace of the country. The archbishop 
told them that the whole party consisted of his 
own clerks, one of whom only was a foreigner, 
the archdeacon of Sens, and that it was not custo- 
mary for oaths to be demanded of the clerks of 
an archbishop of Canterbury. The officers then 
reproached him with having set the country in a 
ferment by excommunicating the bishops, and de- 
manded that he should immediately absolve them. 
In reply they were told that they had been excom- 
municated with the king's consent, and that the 
archbishop could not promise to absolve them 
until he should have more time for deliberation 
on the subject. On hearing this they offered no 
further molestation, and the travellers retired to 
repose and refresh themselves after their voyage. 

The inhabitants of Sandwich did their best to 
welcome the return of their ecclesiastical superior 
after so long an absence. But the reception 
which they gave him was nothing to that which 
awaited him in the villages along the road 
to Canterbury, where the news of his landing 
spread with great rapidity. When he left his 
quarters in the morning to proceed thither, he 

1170.] OF CANTERBURY. 299 

found the road thronged with people. The clergy- 
man of every parish had formed a procession of 
his parishioners and came to meet him, bearing the 
cross before them. The road through each vil- 
lage was almost carpeted with their garments, the 
people sang for joy, and the bells rang out a merry 
peal, indicative of the enthusiasm which was gene- 
rally felt at the return of the people's favourite. 

At Canterbury they all, high and low, could 
hardly restrain their feelings: they decked out 
the cathedral, and all classes put on their holiday 
clothes; a numerous procession conducted him 
into the city, where a public dinner was given 
to celebrate his coming. Anthems and hymns 
of thanksgiving were put up in the different 
churches, and the " halls of the city resounded 
with the trumpets." The archbishop having first 
saluted on the cheek every one of the monks of 
Canterbury, went up into the cathedral church 
from which he had been so long absent : and after 
prayers, preached to the people a talented and forci- 
ble discourse on the text, " Here we have no con- 
tinuing city, but seek one to come 6 ," after which 
he retired to his residence in the monastery, and 
the rest of the day was spent in demonstrations of 
the joy that universally prevailed. 

Whilst these events were going on, Geoffrey 

6 Heb. xiii. 14. 


Ridel, the archdeacon of Canterbury, and Richard, 
archdeacon of Poitiers,, were on the point of 
entering the town, on their way to the king, who 
was in Normandy, but when they heard of the 
reception which had been given the archbishop, 
they turned off to the west, and embarked at a 
different port. This was taken as an ill omen 
by some, who inferred that peace was not yet 
thoroughly made between Becket and the king. 

The next morning, the officers who had ac- 
costed him at his first landing, again presented 
themselves, in company with certain clerks, and 
Randolf de Brock amongst them, sent by the 
excommunicated bishops, who had not yet left 
the neighbourhood. They were come, they said, 
to demand that the bishops should be absolved, 
and they represented, moreover, that it was un- 
becoming of him to enter the kingdom with fire 
and sword, trampling on his suffragans, who were 
unable to wait and pay their respects to him on 
his arrival, by being thus unexpectedly put out 
of the pale of the Church. The archbishop re- 
turned an answer in strict conformity with the 
ecclesiastical canons ; that it was the pope who 
had inflicted the sentence and not himself; that 
he would, however, step beyond his duty, and 
absolve them, if they would pledge themselves to 
abide the judgment of the Church on the offence 
for which they had been condemned. This, how- 

1170.] WAIT ON BECKET. 301 

ever, did not satisfy them, though it was reported 
that the bishops of London and Salisbury would 
have acquiesced, but that the archbishop of York 
dissuaded them, saying, " My coffers still contain 
eight thousand pounds, thank God ; and I will 
spend every farthing of it in beating down 
Thomas's insolence, which is even greater than he 
himself will be able to persevere in. Do not let 
him get round you, my brethren : but let us set 
off to the king, who has all along stood by us, 
and will do so, if we will let him, to the last. 
Do not suppose that this reconciliation can be 
sincere after so long and bitter a quarrel : if we 
give over the contest, he will justly set us down 
as deserters, and if he comes to a severe reckon- 
ing with us, we shall be turned out of all our 
possessions. What will you do then ? You will 
be made beggars. But if you stand by the king, 
your persecutor can do nothing. He has already 
done his worst, and has extorted this sentence 
from the pope under false pretences." These 
arguments confirmed the waverers, and all three 
hastened off with as much speed as possible to 
Normandy, to inform the king of what had hap- 

When the archbishop had been eight days at 
Canterbury, he determined to pay a visit to the 
young king, for whom, as his old pupil, he had 
always felt a great affection. As a mark of his 


regard, he had brought over from Flanders three 
fine horses, remarkable for their speed, size, and 
beauty, as a present to the young prince, and he 
now sent in advance a message to give notice of 
his visit. On his way to London it was necessary 
to pass through Rochester, where the bishop and 
clergy came out to meet him, and received him 
with every mark of honour. At London he was 
met by a third procession, which conducted him 
to St. Mary's, a church of canons regular in 
Southwark. An immense multitude of all clas- 
ses, men and women, clergy and laity, went out 
to meet him, and to bless God for allowing him 
to return amongst them. About three thousand 7 
poor scholars and clerks attached to the Churches 
of London formed a separate body, about three 
miles from the city, and when the archbishop 
came in sight, they all. struck up singing Te 
Deum laudamus. The archbishop himself bowed to 
the multitudes as they saluted him, and showered 
money amongst the lower classes, which made 
them redouble their acclamations. In this man- 
ner he reached the porch of St. Mary's, where 
the canons came out in a procession to meet 
him, singing, " Blessed is the Lord God of Israel," 
in which all those who followed him united. 

7 This was when the population of London was about 
300,000 ; at present there are nearly 2,000,000 of people in 
London : are there 3000 scholars ? 


But amid this general satisfaction, there was 
a " mad-woman," says Fitz-stephen, " named 
Matilda, who was in the habit of pushing herself 
into all public meetings, and on the present oc- 
casion, she attracted the notice of several of the 
by-standers by calling out, " Archbishop, beware 
of the knife ! archbishop, beware of the knife ! " 

At the distance of about a hundred yards from 
the west-end of the present St. Saviour's Church, 
Southwark, and surrounded by unsightly ware- 
houses, such as show how widely mercantile wealth 
is removed from taste and elegance, is an old 
wall, retaining little of detail, save its thickness, 
an ancient fire-place and a pointed door-way, to 
indicate its primeval character. This fragment is 
all that remains of the palace of Henry of Win- 
chester, in which Thomas Becket passed the night 
of the 13th of December, 1170; it is also hard 
by the place of his birth, where the hospital, de- 
dicated to him under the name of Saint Thomas, 
still dispenses the blessing of health to the poor 
inhabitants of this now vast metropolis. 

On the next day, or that which succeeded it, 
Joceline de Arundel, the queen's brother, came 
on the part of the young king, forbidding the 
archbishop to traverse the country as he was 
doing, and ordering him to return to his own 
diocese. " Is it then the young king's intention 
to forbid me his presence ?" asked he. " His 


commands," said Joceline, "are as I have said," 
and he immediately left the room; but as he 
went out, met a rich citizen of London, with 
whom he was acquainted. " And are you going to 
see the king's enemy?" said Joceline. "If he is 
the king's enemy," replied the citizen, " we know 
nothing about it, for we heard that they were 
reconciled ; and we have been told nothing to 
the contrary." These incidents, which proceeded 
perhaps entirely from the malice of the courtiers, 
gave some little uneasiness to the more reflecting 
of the archbishop's adherents. 

The day after, he was preparing to return to 
Canterbury, when news reached him that Randolf 
de Broc had seized a vessel of his loaded with 
wine which had just arrived, and that he had 
killed some of the crew, and shut up the rest 
prisoners in his castle of Pevensey. On receiving 
this intelligence, he sent the prior of Dover and 
the abbat of St. Alban's to inform the young 
king of it, by whose orders the vessel was re- 
stored and the sailors liberated. He now set out 
on his return to Canterbury, taking with him an 
escort of only five lances, to protect him from the 
freebooting assaults which were at that time so 
common all over Europe. This was the only 
foundation for the report which reached the king 
in Normandy, of the military expeditions which 
the archbishop was making throughout the 


country ; and even these five soldiers were dis- 
missed as soon as he arrived at Canterbury. On 
his way he passed through Wrotham, where a 
priest named William, of Chidington, had an 
interview, the real nature of which was probably 
concealed under a foolish legend concerning the 
relics of St. Lawrence, St. Vincent, and St. 
Cecilia. The priest was told to return to the 
archbishop when he was at Canterbury, and he 
should be provided for. 

Meanwhile Randolf de Broc and Gervais de 
Cornhill, the king's officers, professing to be act- 
ing by the king's command, summoned the priors 
of the churches and the citizens of London, to 
give account for having made a procession in 
honour of the king's enemy, and called on them 
to give bail ; but the priors did not attend, and 
the citizens refused to give bail, because they had 
not received any warrant from either the king or 
his justices. 

The archbishop was now once more in his own 
city, but still experienced persecution from the De 
Brocs, who resided in the castle of Saltwood, 
from which they issued whenever an opportunity 
offered of annoying the archbishop or his re- 
tainers ; they lay in wait for them on the public 
roads, hunted in his chase, killed his deer, and 
carried away his dogs. At last, a little before 
Christmas-day, Robert de Broc, who had succes- 

VOL. n. x 


sively been a priest, a friar, and an apostate, sur- 
prised some pack-horses belonging to the arch- 
bishop, and on their way to Canterbury, and his 
nephew John de Broc, at his uncle's instigation, 
cut off the tail of one of them close to the 

But these causes of annoyance did not take off 
his attention from the concerns of his diocese, 
which had so long been deprived of his superin- 
tendence: one ray of sunshine at least shone 
upon him in the repentance of Hugh earl of 
Norfolk, who had been excommunicated. Two 
of the archbishop's letters on this subject have 
been preserved; a third addressed to the pope, 
contains an account of the principal events which 
had happened to the archbishop since the peace 
of Freitval : it is therefore unnecessary to insert it, 
but the other two will be of interest to the reader, 
as the last letters which this celebrated man wrote 
whilst still in this world. 



" WHEN I read the words of your affection, to- 
gether with the letters of the canons, in which 
they testified that they experienced the daily 
benefits of your liberality, my spirit so brightened 
up within me that my bosom swelled with the 

1170.] BECKET TO EARL HUGH. 307 

praises of Him, of whose gift cometh so signal 
a conversion, wonderful and salutary to your soul. 
Glory in heaven will be your reward, joy in spirit 
is mine, and the sweet odour of your example will 
spread through all the kingdom: so that the 
other enemies of Christ's cross may learn from 
you, if they will, to shake off from them the 
yoke of the devil, and to run after your sweet 
odours. For this cause it is that we will, by 
God's permission, ever be zealous to promote 
your honour and advancement, because, in the 
very beginning of our peace, even before we en- 
tered the kingdom, you fulfilled our mandate, not 
only with kindness but with magnificence, fur- 
nishing thereby an example to others to do the 
same. But the urgency of your entreaties for 
those disobedient priests causes us no little em- 
barrassment. Your discretion knows, my dear 
son, that as humble poverty deserves to be re- 
warded, so do the proud merit castigation. Now 
consider, if you please, how contumaciously, how 
proudly and how disobediently those poor clerks, 
as you call them, have behaved ; and when you 
have considered the excess of the delinquents, 
you will see, I have no doubt, that there is not 
room for mercy. These are the men who, per- 
sisting in manifest disobedience, have fought 
against God, and caused scandal and mourning to 
the world. By an act of detestable example they 

x 2 


have polluted Christ's body, for, persisting in 
manifest disobedience, they have presumed to 
consecrate Christ's body and to celebrate the 
other ceremonies ceremonies which the best of 
men, even possessed of angelic purity, are but too 
unworthy to perform. But we will say no more of 
their crimes, lest we be compelled to aggravate 
their punishment in proportion. And surely, if it 
had not been for your valued intercession, the 
axe would already have been laid at the root of 
the unfruitful tree. Their own iniquity would 
have condemned them everlastingly, for by your 
favour they will obtain no slight compassion. But 
we wish them to remain at present as they are, 
until, as we hope, we shall go to see you, when 
we will fulfil your wishes, as far as our duty to 
God will allow, by absolving these interdicted 
priests. Meanwhile, out of respect and love to you, 
we have granted to the bearer permission to preach 
the Gospel, to baptize infants, and to shrive the 
dying, if at least man's last necessity shall re- 
quire it." 



" WHEREAS your brotherly love has signified to 
me, that all would be done according to our com- 
mands in the absolution of the noble earl Hugh, 

1170.] BISHOP OF NORWICH. 309 

we have received no slight pleasure from the 
same. For we have rejoiced with no slight joy 
at the finding of the lost sheep, which the pious 
shepherd has brought back upon his shoulders to 
the fold. You add, that you have uplifted your 
hands to Almighty God, who in these last days 
has vouchsafed to look down upon the earth : my 
own soul too doth magnify the Lord, who hath 
wrought gloriously for us, changing our storm 
into a favourable wind, and calming the motion 
of the waves. We now earnestly pray of Him in 
his goodness to grant that we may see you before 
you depart hence, and flee from this mortal 
country to that region of immortals, where you 
will dwell with your fellow-citizens and fellow- 
servants in the household of the Lord. For we 
hope that your presence will communicate no 
slight support and strength to our weakness ; by 
the blessing of God, who in these days hath set 
you to be a firm column in his temple. 

" Concerning the interdicted clerks, in whose 
favour the noble earl Hugh has written to us, 
we have determined to make no change at pre- 
sent, but we wish them to remain in their present 
condition, until by God's favour we go amongst 
you, to enjoy your counsel on these and other 
matters of the Church. But meanwhile, out of 
respect to the person by whom the bearer is sent, 
and from compassion towards himself also, we 


have granted to him the privilege of preaching 
the Gospel, of conferring baptism, and of shriving 
the dying, if the last necessity of life shall so 
require it. Farewell." 

The visit to Norfolk, hinted at in these letters, 
never took place : Christmas was now come : on 
the eve of that high festival the archbishop read 
the Gospel " The book of the generation," &c. 

The next day he celebrated high mass himself, 
and first preached a sermon on his favourite text, 
" On earth peace, good will towards men." When 
some of the clerks spoke of saints and their fa- 
mous martyr of Canterbury he said, "Yes, we 
have one martyr, St. Elphage, and we may per- 
haps have another before long !" 

In punishment for the cruelty done to his horse 
he pronounced sentence of excommunication 
against Robert de Broc, but he first gave him 
notice of his intentions, and received an insolent 
message in return by a soldier named David de 
Rumnel, who said that, "if Robert were excom- 
municated, he should do the same as other ex- 
communicates." He pronounced the same sen- 
tence on two others who had repulsed his officials, 
and would not resign his churches of Harrow and 
Thirl wood, which they had usurped. The day 
after Christmas-day is St. Stephen's-day, and he 
again celebrated mass, as he did also on the next, 

1170.] AT CANTERBURY. 311 

which is dedicated to St. John the apostle and 
evangelist. On the same day he sent off three of 
his clerks with letters to the pope : these were 
master Herbert, Alexander Llewellen his cross- 
bearer, and Gilbert de Glanville. Two other 
clerks, namely, his chaplain Richard and John 
Planeta were dispatched to the bishop of Nor- 
wich, authorizing him to grant absolution to the 
priests on the estates of earl Hugh, who had be- 
come excommunicate by having administered the 
mass knowingly to excommunicates, but at the 
same time to exact from them an oath to send 
two deputies to the pope before the end of a year, 
and to abide by his decision. He also remem- 
bered the promise which he had made to William 
the priest at Wrotham, and having in vain sent 
William Beivin to inquire for him in the town, 
he drew up a charter by which he conferred on 
him the chapel of Penshurst, with a sentence of 
excommunication attached against any one who 
should attempt to deprive him of it. After the 
archbishop's death, William Beivin delivered this 
deed to the priest, who in consequence came into 
peaceable possession of the gift 8 . 

All these matters occupied the archbishop 
during the Christmas week and a few days imme- 
diately preceding and following it. In the mean 

* Fitz- Stephen. 


time the archbishop of York, with the bishops of 
London and Salisbury, and the archdeacon of 
Poitiers, arrived at Bur near Baieux in Nor- 
mandy, where the king then was, leaving behind 
them Geoffrey Ridel, the archdeacon of Canter- 
bury, who had suffered so much on the voyage 
that he was unable to accompany them. But 
notwithstanding the haste of the bishops, common 
report had anticipated their coming, and the king 
already knew all the particulars of what had 
happened in England. The arrival of the bishops, 
however, led to a recapitulation of the fresh 
offences which were laid at the archbishop's door ; 
and the king seems to have forgotten, or, worse 
still, to have kept back from them the permission 
which he had given Becket previous to his depar- 
ture, to punish those who had offended against 
the privileges of his see. " My lord," said the arch- 
bishop of York, " I alone of the three have the 
power of opening my mouth, and speaking to 
your majesty ; for my two colleagues are excom- 
municated, interdicted the use of fire and water ! 
no one dares hold converse with them, for fear 
of being involved in the sentence which that in- 
grate, unmindful of your majesty's mercy in al- 
lowing him to return, has launched against all 
who were concerned in your son's coronation. 
And now that he is come back, he is making 
armed progresses throughout the country, and 


endeavouring to strengthen himself against your 
majesty's displeasure for the future, by getting ad- 
mission to the castles and fortresses of the land. 
We, my lord, are indifferent to all the toils and 
sufferings we may have to undergo in your ma- 
jesty's cause, -and we do not seem likely to escape 
without considerable loss both of comfort, dignity, 
and reputation." " By God's eyes," exclaimed 
the king, " if all who were concerned in my son's 
coronation are to be excommunicated, I will be 
one of the number." " Have patience, sir," said 
the archbishop of York, "the storm cannot be 
turned aside, but by proper management we may 
bear it without much detriment, and even gain 
the character of being the injured party: but to 
succeed in this we must have patience, and let 
him go on his own way for the present." " What 
then would you have me do ?" asked the king. 
" It is not our duty to advise your majesty," re- 
plied they, " your barons will do that," "but," 
added one of them, " so long as Thomas lives, you 
will never enjoy one day's tranquillity." At these 
words such a fit of passion seized on the king, 
that his countenance was changed, his eyes flashed 
fire, and his whole look was disordered. "A 
curse," said he, "a curse light upon all the false 
varlets that I have maintained, who have left me 
so long exposed to this insolence from a priest, 
and have not attempted to relieve me of him ! " 


This fatal speech did not escape unheeded : among 
the retainers of the court who were present were 
four knights, Reginald Fitz-Urse, William de 
Tracy, Hugh de Morville 9 , and Richard Briton, 
on whose ears the king's words made too deep an 
impression. They started as at a summons, and 
leaving the royal presence, briefly but boldly laid 
their plan for action, and quitting the court, went 
with the speed of malice to the coast, each sepa- 
rately for safety's sake, but bound to meet again 
in Saltwood castle. 

The king called a council of the barons, and 
laid before them the reported conduct of the 
archbishop : he had returned to England like an 
invading foe, rather than as a subject and an 
ecclesiastic ; he had suspended the metropolitan 
of York, excommunicated several bishops, and 
seemed to have in view to deprive his son Henry 
of the crown which had so recently been placed 
upon his head ; added to which, he bore powers 
from the pope which were inconsistent with the 

9 A curious anecdote is told of Hugh de Morville's wife ; 
she cherished a lawless passion for a young man named 
Lithulf; and finding him insensible to her blandishments 
determined on revenge. At her request the young man ad- 
vanced towards her as if in sport with his drawn sword : at 
which she cried out to her husband, " Huwe of Mor-ville, war, 
war, war! Lithulf haveth his sword ydrawn ! " The young man 
was seized, condemned for an attempt to commit murder, and 
boiled alive ! WILL. CANTUAR. 

1170.] FOR ENGLAND. 315 

king's prerogatives and the peace of the kingdom. 
To this address of the king, the earl of Leicester 
was the first who made reply. " My lord," said 
he, "the archbishop was my father's intimate 
friend, but since he gave up your majesty's favour 
and left the kingdom, I have never sent a mes- 
sage to him, nor he to me!" Engelgere de 
Bohun, uncle to the excommunicated bishop of 
Salisbury, then spoke. "The only way to take 
vengeance on such a fellow is to plait a few withs 
into a rope and draw him up on a gallows." The 
next speaker was William Malvoisin, nephew of 
Eudes count of Bretagne. "When I was at 
Rome," said he, "on my way back from Jeru- 
salem, I asked the landlord of the house where I 
lodged some questions about the popes, and he 
told me, among other anecdotes, that one of them 
had been killed for his insupportable insolence 
and pride." 

These are all the speeches which the historian 
has recorded as having passed on this occasion, 
and we may no doubt suppose that the whole dis- 
cussion was conducted on equally sound principles, 
and with equally logical regard to premises and 
conclusion. One fact, however, was too impor- 
tant to be lost sight of. The absence of the four 
knights had already attracted notice, and William 
earl of Mandeville, Sayer de Quincy, and Richard 


de Humet were dispatched to overtake them, and 
charged with a commission to arrest the arch- 
bishop. The earl of Mandeville and Sayer de 
Quincy only went as far as the coast, where they 
halted, but Richard de Humet passed over into 
England, and sent orders to Hugh de Gundeville 
and William Fitz-John, the young king's tutors 
at Winchester, to march as privately as possible 
with the household troops to Canterbury. Mean- 
while he remained on the coast to seize the arch- 
bishop, if he should attempt to escape, and his 
two colleagues on the other side of the water 
held themselves ready to act in the same contin- 
gency. In this disposition of things they re- 
mained, whilst events were occurring at Canter- 
bury, with which the reader must now be made 

The four knights arrived at Saltwood castle on 
the day of the Holy Innocents, [Dec. 28,] and 
spent a night in arranging their plans for the next 
day. Randolf de Broc, their host, was not only 
instigated by old enmity to the archbishop, but 
also by his apprehensions of what might happen 
if his castle should fall into the archbishop's 
hands, for Saltwood was one of the fees which 
were claimed of the king as belonging to the see 
of Canterbury. To make sure of the object for 
which the knights were come, Randolf left the 

1170.] THE MARTYRDOM. 317 

castle, and pretending to bear a warrant from the 
king, raised all the military in the neighbour- 

On the morning of Tuesday, the 29th, the 
whole party set out for Canterbury, where they 
arrived in the early part of the afternoon. The 
four knights, accompanied by twelve others, went 
to the archbishop's palace, whilst the others 
sought out the authorities of the city, and com- 
manded them to call together the citizens and 
proceed with them on the king's service. 



WE are now arrived at the last scene in the life 
of this extraordinary man, exhibiting a deed of 
violence, perpetrated, not only with cold blood, 
but with all the accompaniments of forethought 
and premeditation. It is not, however, certain 
that the murderers entered the sacred building 
with the intention of murdering the archbishop 
within its precincts : their first object was evi- 
dently to drag him forth and carry him away 
prisoner, but the course of events hurried them 


on as they had not foreseen, though, as the sequel 
shows, they were fully prepared to act as the 
emergency might prompt them. 

The archbishop was sitting after meals with his 
clerks and attendants on the afternoon of the 
29th of December, A. D. 1170, when the events 
happened which are thus related by Edward 
Grim 1 , a monk, who, as has before been noticed, 
had come to Canterbury on a visit to Becket, and 
was present during the whole of the proceedings 
of that fatal day. 

" The four wretches above-mentioned, unworthy 
of the name of knights, no sooner landed than 
they summoned the officials of the king, whom 
the archbishop had excommunicated, and pro- 
claiming that they were acting by the king's 
orders and authority, they persuaded many knights 
and others of inferior rank to join them. They 
then collected in a body, ready for the perpetra- 
tion of any crime, and arrived at the palace of 
their innocent victim," [at the tenth hour 2 ] "on 
the fifth day after Christmas, which was the day 
after that of the Holy Innocents. The hour of 
meals was over, and the holy man had retired 
with his domestics from the crowd into an inner 
chamber, to transact some business. A noise was 

1 A few supplementary passages are added in brackets from 
the other contemporary writers. 

2 Four o'clock. 

DEC. 29, 1170.] THE MARTYRDOM. 319 

heard in the hall without, and the four soldiers, 
with only one attendant, entered. They were 
received with respect, as servants of the king, and 
well known : and those who had been waiting on 
the archbishop, being now at table themselves, 
invited the new-comers to be seated. The in- 
vitation was rejected by those murderers, whose 
thirst was for blood, and not for food. By their 
orders the archbishop was informed that four men 
were come from the king and desired to speak to 
him : on his giving permission, they entered the 
room and took their seats, where they remained 
some time without saluting him or speaking a 
word. Neither, however, did he salute them im- 
mediately on their entering, for in his wisdom 
he remembered the words of Scripture, ' By thy 
words shalt thou be justified,' and he wished to 
discover their intentions from the questions which 
they should put to him. After a while, however, 
he turned to them, and carefully scrutinizing their 
looks, he spoke a few words of greeting to them : 
but the unhappy wretches, in league with the 
powers of death, at once returned his salutation 
with abuse, and ironically prayed God's blessing 
on him. At these words of bitterness and malice, 
the man of God coloured deeply, for he now saw 
that they were come for evil purposes. Where- 
upon Fitz-Urse, who seemed their leader and the 
most daring among them, breathing fury against 


the bishop, addressed him thus, ' We bring you 
a message from the king, tell us if you wish it 
to be delivered in public.'" [Master John of 
Salisbury said to him, ' My lord, let us discuss 
this in private :'] " to which the archbishop, know- 
ing the nature of what they were going to de- 
liver, replied, * These things must not be spoken 
in private or in a closet, but before the world.' 
Now the miserable men were so bent on murder- 
ing him, that, as they afterwards confessed, if the 
door-keeper had not called back the clerks, who 
had been ordered to withdraw, they would have 
killed the archbishop on the spot with the shaft 
of the cross which stood by. The clerks returned 
and the spokesman continued : ' When the king 
made peace with you, and every cause of dispute 
seemed ended, he sent you back to your own 
see in entire freedom, according to your request; 
but you, on the other hand, have added insult 
to your former injuries, and setting at nought 
the terms of reconciliation, have wrought an evil 
deed in yourself against the king ; for those ser- 
vants of his, by whose ministry his son was 
crowned and invested with the honours of sove- 
reignty, have been suspended through your per- 
tinacity and pride ; moreover, you have anathe- 
matized the king's ministers, by whose prudent 
counsels the business of the kingdom is transacted, 
so that it is evident you would deprive the king's 

DEC. 29, 1170.] THE MARTYRDOM. 321 

son of his crown if you were able, and the perse- 
vering schemes by which you endeavour to ac- 
complish your designs against the king are now 
known to all men. Say then, are you prepared 
to accompany us before the king to answer on 
all these heads ; for this is the object of our 
coming ? ' To this the archbishop replied : ' I 
declare before God, it never was my wish to de- 
prive my lord the king's son of the kingdom, or 
in any way to lessen his power : I would rather 
give him three kingdoms, and should have every 
motive both in reason and equity to aid him in 
obtaining a more ample extent of territory. But 
on the other hand, it is unjust for my lord the 
king to be offended because my people accom- 
pany me, and come out to meet me, through the 
cities and towns, when they have for seven years 
been deprived by my exile of the consolation of 
my presence. And even now I am ready to 
satisfy him, whenever it shall please him, for 
whatever I have done amiss, but he has denoun- 
ced me in the strongest terms, and forbidden me 
to enter any of his towns, cities, or villages. 
As to the suspension of the bishops, that was 
done by our lord the pope and not by me.' 
' But it was done by your means,' replied the 
infuriate wretches, ' and we require you to ab- 
solve them.' ' I do not deny,' said the arch- 
bishop, 'that it was done by my means, but it 
VOL. n. Y 


is beyond my authority, and incompatible with 
my station, to loose those whom my lord the pope 
has bound : let them go to him whom they have 
offended by the contempt which they have shown 
towards their metropolis, Christ's Church of Can- 
terbury.' ' Well then,' said the murderers, ' this 
is the command of the king, that you leave the 
kingdom and all other of his dominions, with 
everything belonging to you, for from this day 
there can be no peace between him and you or 
any of your people, because you have broken the 
peace.' * No more of these threats and recrimi- 
nations,' said the bishop ; * I trust in the God 
of heaven who suffered on the cross for his own : 
no one shall again see me separated by the ocean 
from my Church :" [I have already once fled 
from my duty; but will never do so again.] "I 
did not come back to run away again, and who- 
ever wants me shall find me here. Besides which, 
it ill suits the dignity of a king to issue such 
a mandate ; the injuries which I and my people 
have already received from his ministers are 
quite sufficient, without such threats as these in 
addition.' ' Such, however,' replied they, * are 
the orders of our lord the king, and we will stand 
by them ; for whereas you ought to have shown 
respect to the king's majesty, and deferred gra- 
tifying your vengeance to his justice, you have 
blindly followed the impulse of your passion, and 

DEC. 29, 1170.] THE MARTYRDOM. 

shamefully excommunicated his ministers and 
servants.' At these words Christ's champion, 
rising in the fervour of his soul against their 
calumnies, exclaimed, * Whoever shall presume 
to violate the laws of the holy Roman see or the 
privileges of Christ's Church, and shall refuse to 
come of his own accord and give satisfaction for 
the offence, whosoever he may be, he shall meet 
with no mercy at my hands, nor will I delay to 
inflict the censures of the Church upon the de- 
linquent.' " [' But as for you,' continued he, ' I 
wonder at your behaviour in this matter, con- 
sidering the tie that exists between us.' This 
he said in allusion to the fact, that three of them, 
Reginald Fitz-Urse, William de Tracy, and Hugh 
de Moreville, had voluntarily become his vassals 
when he was chancellor.] "The knights, con- 
founded at these words, started upon their feet, 
for they could no longer bear the constancy of 
his replies, and coming up close to him : * We 
tell you plainly,' said they, ' that what you have 
said will recoil on your own head.' ' Are you 
then come to slay me ?' said he : 'I commit my 
cause to the great Judge of all mankind, and 
will not be moved from my purpose by your 
threats : your swords are not more ready to strike 
than my soul is to suffer martyrdom : go, pursue 
those who would flee from you ; but for me, I 
will meet you foot to foot in the Lord's battle.' 



" The knights then left the room with much 
noise and abuse, whilst one of them, whose bearish 
name" [Urse] "well describes the man, exclaimed 
in a brutal manner, ' Ho you, clerks and monks, 
we order you in the king's name to seize that 
man and keep him, that he may not escape, until 
the king shall take ample justice on his person.' 
With these words they departed, and the man of 
God following them to the door, said, ' Here shall 
you find me ; here will I await you.' At the same 
time he raised his hand to his head, as by a pre- 
sentiment marking the place where he should 
receive their strokes." 

[On their way out, they took with them 
William Fitz-Nigel and Ralph Morin, two of the 
archbishop's knights: and removed the arch- 
bishop's porter, putting one of their own men in 
his place : the gate was shut, and only the wicket 
left open. They stationed William Fitz-Nigel 
and Simon de Crioil, one of the knights of St. 
Augustine's, in the porch of the hall, and Regi- 
nald Fitz-Urse, seeing a carpenter there repairing 
some steps, took up his axe and carried it away 
with him.] 

" After this the archbishop returned to his 
seat, and consoling his clerks exhorted them not 
to fear, and it seemed to us who were present, 
that though he was the only one amongst us 
whose death was intended, he was nevertheless as 

DEC. 29, 1170.] THE MARTYRDOM. 325 

calm and undisturbed as if he had been invited 
to a wedding. Before long the murderers re- 
turned, with their armour on, with swords and 
axes in their hands, and such other instruments 
as might be of use for perpetrating the crime 
which they meditated. Finding the doors barred 
and no one opening to them, they passed by a 
private entrance through the orchard, and turning 
aside to a wooden partition which stopped them, 
they began to cut and hack it down with their 
weapons. At this noise almost all the servants and 
clerks were terribly frightened and dispersed in all 
directions, like sheep in the presence of the wolf. 
Those who remained called out to the archbishop 
to flee into the church ; but he did not forget the 
pledge which he had given, not to flee but to 
await his murderers, wherefore he refused to 
escape or to flee in such an emergency from city 
to city, choosing rather to give an example to 
those who were beneath him, that they should 
submit every one of them to death rather than see 
the Divine law set at nought and the holy canons 
subverted. Moreover, he now saw that the hour 
of his martyrdom, for which he had long sighed, 
was approaching, and he feared lest it might be 
delayed, if not pass away altogether if he retired 
into the church. But the monks persisted, saying 
that he ought not to absent himself from nones 
and vespers, which at that very moment were 


beginning to be chaunted." [At hearing this he 
no longer refused, but ordered the holy cross to 
be brought, and Henry of Auxerre, a clerk, bore 
it before him. When we had got into the clois- 
ters, the monks wished to shut the door behind 
us. At this he was displeased, and made them all 
go on before ; and there was not the slightest sign 
of fear about him ; his dress was unruffled, and his 
look as calm as his heart was undaunted. Once, 
indeed, he looked behind him, perhaps to see if 
any one was pursuing him, or it might be that he 
feared somebody had stopped behind to shut the 
door.] " Still he loitered in the place of less re- 
verence where he was standing, for he had now in 
his mind caught a sight of the moment of happy 
consummation for which he had longed so ar- 
dently, and he feared lest the greater sanctity of 
the church should deter his murderers from their 
purpose and cheat him of the heart's desire. For 
soon after his return from exile, feeling sure that 
he would be removed by martyrdom from this 
world of woe, he is said to have exclaimed before 
a large audience 3 , 'You have already amongst 
you one true and holy martyr, Saint Elphage, whom 
God loved, and by his divine mercy you will soon 
have another ! ' Oh how sincere ! how trustful was 

3 This was said in the church, as the reader will no doubt 
remember. See above, p. 310. 

DEC. 29, 1170.] THE MARTYRDOM. 327 

the conscience of this good shepherd, who in de- 
fending the cause of his flock would not delay 
the hour of his death even when he was able, 
nor avoid the executioner, but glutted the raven- 
ing wolves with his own blood, and saved his 
sheep from their fury. Thus when neither argu- 
ment nor entreaties could prevail on him to flee 
into the church, the monks caught hold of him in 
spite of his resistance, and some pulling and some 
lifting they forced him towards the church, not- 
withstanding all his adjurations to be let go : but 
here they met with a sudden obstacle, for the 
door leading into the monks' cloister had been 
kept carefully shut for some days, and as the 
murderers were now at hand, there seemed no 
chance of his escaping, when one of them running 
forwards caught hold of the lock, which, to the 
surprise of all, flew open as if it had been held 
together with glue. The monks rushed into the 
church, and the four knights were rapidly pursuing 
them, having in their company one Hugh, a sub- 
dean as bad as themselves, and known for his evil 
character by the surname of Mau-clerk, for he 
had no regard either to God or his saints, as the 
sequel plainly showed. 

" The vespers had just begun when the holy 
archbishop entered the church^ but the monks 
breaking off the service, ran up to meet him, and 
thanked God he was not killed as had been re- 


ported, but was still alive and well amongst 

[And now he was in the church and was going 
to the high altar, where he usually sat during the 
" horse " and " missse familiares." He had ascended 
four of the steps, when Reginald Fitz-Urse ap- 
peared at the cloister door in a complete suit of 
mail, and with his sword drawn ; and immediately 
the three others, armed at all points, but with 
their visors up, and many more in their train.] 
" Upon which the monks were proceeding to bolt 
the doors of the church and secure him from the 
swords of the pursuers, but this remarkable cham- 
pion of the Lord forbade them, saying, ' It is not 
right to make a fortress of Christ's church, which 
is a house of prayer ; it is able to protect its own, 
even if its doors are open ; and we shall triumph 
over our enemies by suffering rather than by 
fighting ; for we came here to suffer, not to resist.' 
Thus, there being no impediment, the murderers 
entered the house of peace and reconciliation 
with drawn swords, whilst their very looks and 
the rattle of their arms caused no small terror in 
the minds of the beholders. All present were in 
a state of great commotion, for those who had 
been engaged in singing vespers had now joined 
the others to see the dreadful sight." 

[John of Salisbury and the other clerks fled, 
some to the altars, some to other places of safety, 

DEC. 29, 1170.] THE MARTYRDOM. 329 

all except Robert the canon, William Fitz-Ste- 
phen, and Edward Grim, who had lately entered 
the archbishop's household. And the archbishop 
himself, if he had liked, might have easily saved 
himself by flight ; for it was evening, and a long 
dark winter's night was at hand ; and besides the 
crypt which was near, there was a door within 
where was a winding staircase leading to the lofts 
and roof of the church, but he did not attempt to 

" The murderers inspired with fury, called out, 
* Where is Thomas Becket, traitor to the king 
and the kingdom?' As he made no reply, they 
exclaimed more furiously than before, ' Where is 
the archbishop ? ' At this question, with a firm 
heart, and remembering the words of Scripture, 
' The just shall be without fear like a bold lion,' 
he descended from the steps up which the monks 
had forced him through fear of the soldiers, and 
answered aloud, ' Here I am ; no traitor to the 
king, but a priest of the Lord : what do you want 
of me?' And whereas he had before said that 
he feared them not, he now added, ' Here I am, 
ready to suffer in the name of Him who redeemed 
me with his blood ; far be it from me to flee or 
flinch from what is right for fear of your swords.' 
As he said this he turned towards the right under 
a pillar, having on one side the altar of Christ's 
blessed mother, the ever-virgin Mary, on the other 


side the altar of Saint Benedict, by whose exam- 
ple and encouragement he crucified himself to the 
world and the lusts thereof, and stood with a firm 
heart, as if he were no longer in the flesh, and 
endured all that his murderers heaped upon him. 
' Absolve those whom you have excommunicated,' 
exclaimed they, following him ; ' and restore those 
whom you have suspended.' ' They have offered 
no satisfaction,' replied he, 'and I will not. absolve 
them.' * Then you shall die, as you deserve.' 
' And I am ready to die,' rejoined he, ' for the 
Lord : that the Church may obtain liberty and 
peace in my blood : but I forbid you in the name 
of Almighty God to do the least injury to any of 
these, whether clerks or laymen.' How piously, 
how thoughtfully did the blessed martyr thus pro- 
vide for the safety of his flock, that no one near 
him should be hurt, and that no innocent blood 
should taint the glory in which he was speedily to 
ascend before the throne of Christ ! Thus did it 
behove the blessed martyr to follow the steps of 
his Leader and Saviour, who when he was .in- 
quired for by the wicked, said, ' If you seek me, 
let these go their way.' All at once they laid on 
him their sacrilegious hands, foully endeavouring 
to drag him from the church, that they might 
either kill him or carry him away prisoner, as they 
afterwards acknowledged." [One of them struck 
him with the flat of his sword between the shoul- 

DEC. 29, 1170.] THE MARTYRDOM. 331 

ders, crying out, ' Flee, or you are a dead man !'] 
"But they could not force him away from the 
pillar, and when one of them pressed on him 
more closely and obstinately than the others, he 
thrust him back, called him a pander, and said, 
' Touch me not, Reginald ; you owe me alle- 
giance and subjection, and you and your accom- 
plices are acting madly.' The knight, fired to 
anger at this severe rebuff, waved his sword over 
the archbishop's hallowed head, exclaiming, ' I 
owe thee no subjection contrary to my allegiance 
to our lord the king.' The invincible martyr 
therefore perceiving that the hour was at hand 
when he should exchange frail mortality for the 
crown of immortality which had been promised 
him by the Lord, bent his neck in the attitude of 
prayer, and raising his clasped hands to heaven, 
commended the cause of himself and the Church 
to God, the holy Virgin Mary, and the blessed 
martyr Dionysius. Scarcely had he uttered these 
words, when the blood-thirsty knight [Reginald 
Fitz-Urse], lest the people might interpose and 
save him alive, rushed at once upon him and 
inflicted a blow upon the lamb that was to be 
slain, whereby he shaved off the top of the 
sacred crown by which he had dedicated himself 
to God, and with the same stroke wounded the arm 
of the writer of this narrative. For he alone stuck 
close to the holy archbishop, when all the others 


both monks and clerks fled, and held him in his 
embrace, until the arm which he interposed was 
wounded." [Upon which, warned by the blow, and 
apprehensive of receiving another still more 
severe, he fled to the nearest altar, not knowing 
who had struck him.] " But the blessed martyr 
united in him the meekness of the dove and the 
wisdom of the serpent, for he yielded his body to 
their strokes that he might with his head save 
his soul and the Church unharmed ; nor would 
he avail himself of any forethought or contrivance 
against his murderers in the flesh, whereby he 
might escape from this extremity. Worthy shep- 
herd ! who thus opposed himself so boldly to the 
teeth of the ravening wolves, that the flock 
might not be worried ! Whereas he had cast 
aside the things of this world, so the world in 
essaying to crush him, unwittingly exalted him ! 
He received a second blow upon his head [from 
William de Tracy], but still stood unshaken. At 
the third stroke [given him by the same William 
de Tracy], his knees and elbows relaxed, and 
he yielded himself a living sacrifice, exclaiming, 
* I am ready to die for the name of Jesus and the 
protection of his Church.' But the third [Richard 
Briton] gave him a fourth blow, as he was falling, 
with such violence that the sword broke against 
the pavement," [and the archbishop's skull,] "and 
the whole of his ample tonsure was shaven from 

DEC. 29, 1170.] THE MARTYRDOM. 333 

his head." [' Take that,' cried Richard, ' for the 
sake of the king's brother, my lord William!' 
This William had wished to marry the Countess 
de Warrene ; but had been forbidden by the 
archbishop, because of their relationship.] 

"The red blood issued forth, mingling itself 
with the whiteness of his brains, and blending 
together stained our holy virgin Mother Church 
with the colour of the lily and the rose, depicting 
the life as well as the death of God's martyr and 
confessor ! The fourth soldier meanwhile " [Hugh 
de Morville] " prevented any one from interfering, 
so that the others might the more easily perpe- 
trate the deed. But the fifth among them 4 , no 
knight, but the clerk who had entered with them, 
as if in order that a fifth blow might not be 
wanting to complete the similitude between the 
saint and Christ, whom in all other respects he 
had imitated, placed his foot upon the neck of 
the blessed priest and precious martyr, and, hor- 
rible to say, scattering his blood and brains, over 

4 This was Hugh Mauclerc, as he is called by Edward 
Grim, Roger de Pontigny, and Fitz-Stephen ; but Herbert de 
Bosham attributes this brutal act to Robert de Broc, and says 
that the murderers had already left the church, when they sud- 
denly halted as if in doubt whether they had fully accomplished 
their horrid deed. To make sure of which, Robert de Broc 
returned into the church, and mangled the corpse in the way 


the pavement, exclaimed, 'Now, soldiers, let us 
be off, he will never get up again.'" 

[Thus they left the church by the same way as 
they had come, brandishing their swords, and ex- 
claiming, " For the king ! for the king !" to every 
one they met.] 

These particulars, which have been thus minutely 
described by the pen of Edward Grim, who was 
present, may be relied on as most accurate : they 
are borne out by all the other contemporary writers. 
There are, as might be expected, many points of 
inferior importance added in it by each of the ori- 
ginal narrators, but the account of Edward Grim 
is the most complete, and the writer having un- 
doubtedly been present, and stood his ground when 
all the others fled, possesses higher claims on our 
belief than the others, who either had their infor- 
mation from hearsay, or were present during part 
only of the tragic scene. Two others 5 describe 
themselves as having witnessed his death, as well 
as many other passages of his history : their evi- 
dence has been adduced wherever it seemed to 
deserve attention ; but in the description of the 
closing scene, it was evident that no testimony 
could be so interesting as that of one who shared 
so largely in its horrors. We* may however men- 
tion the following facts, which occur in the other 

5 Fitzstephen, and Anon. Lamb. 

DEC. 29, 1170.] THE MARTYRDOM. 335 

narratives, curious in themselves as illustrating so 
dreadful an event, but adding very little to the 
account which has already been given at length. 

The first passage which we shall quote is from 
the fragments of Abbat Benedict's work preserved 
in the Quadrilogus, wherein we were informed 
more fully of the manner by which the murderers 
gained an entrance into the palace when they 
returned the second time. 

" The profane knights having hastened back to 
their companions and followers, put on their 
armour and returned in all speed to the palace 
with swords and hatchets, bows, arrows, battle-axes, 
and other such weapons as might be of use either 
for breaking through doors and locks, or for effect- 
ing any other object connected with their nefari- 
ous purpose. But certain men ran on before, and 
told the archbishop. ' My lord, my lord, they are 
arming!' 'What is that to us,' replied he, 'let 
them arm if they will.' Among that bloody and 
detested band was that son of perdition, Robert 
de Broc, who for the enormity of his crimes had 
been anathematized and excommunicated on 
Christmas day. He knew all the ways and out- 
lets of the palace, because during the archbishop's 
exile he had been entrusted by his lord, Randulph 
de Broc, with the custody of the whole arch- 
bishopric. Now, whilst the conspirators were 
hurrying to secure the entrance of the hall, 


the servants, getting there first, made it fast against 
them. The gate being thus closed and bolted, 
they were at a loss how to get in, until the afore- 
said Robert guided them to a private staircase 
which led down from the outer dormitory into the 
orchard; thither they turned their steps with all 
speed, and having demolished the nearest window, 
they then unbarred the door also. The servants 
running before, cried out to God's brave champion 
to flee, but he disdaining to fear death in Christ's 
cause, stood his ground undaunted. Then both 
clerks and monks urged him with every kind of 
entreaty to take to flight, but still he stood with- 
out fear, for he would not condescend to act with 
those who have faith for a time, but in the mo- 
ment of temptation fall away. But the monks, of 
whom but few were present, wishing to break open 
the door which led from the cloister into the 
church, and so lead the holy father off in that 
direction, although against his consent, but at the 
same time desirous of cloking it under some more 
specious reason, told him that it was the hour of 
vespers, and that he ought to attend them. Upon 
this the holy man, in observance of our Lord's 
command even to the letter, which says, ' Whoso- 
ever will come after me, let him deny himself and 
take up his cross and follow me,' ordered the cross 
to be carried before him, and proceeded onwards : 
but when some of them began to urge him to speed, 

DEC. 29, 1170.] THE MARTYRDOM. 337 

he stopped, as if ashamed of his flight. The monks 
were nevertheless clamorous in exhorting him to 
go on, whereupon, either to check such unwonted 
and irreverent speed, or else to encourage and con- 
sole his followers, he said to them repeatedly, ' How 
is this, my masters, what are you afraid of?' When 
they approached the cloister door, and could nei- 
ther burst it open, nor find any key at hand to 
open it with, lo ! Richard and William, the two 
cellarers of the church of Canterbury, hearing 
the tumult and clang of arms in the cloister, 
came to make a way for him, and now they at once 
pulled out the bar and opened the door for the 

The narrative is continued by William, the 
monk of Canterbury, as follows : 

" Two lads had already found their way among 
the brethren who were chaunting vespers, and 
given notice more by their fright than by words of 
the irruption of the enemy. 

"Hearing therefore the clatter of arms, some of 
the brethren ran away in terror to hide them- 
selves, but the rest continued their prayers. Some 
of them however wished to go to his assistance, 
and one of them went out and said to him, ' Come 
in, father, come in and stop with us, that if it be 
necessary we may die with you, and be glorified 
with you. We have been dejected at your ab- 
sence, let then your presence console us.' To 



which he replied, ' Go and finish the holy service 
which you have begun ;' and standing at the door 
he continued, ' So long as you are afraid of death, 
I will refuse to enter.' " 

It is not necessary to continue this narrative any 
further ; for it is in substance the same as the ac- 
count given by Edward Grim. Not so, however, 
is the description which Benedict gives us of what 
passed in the private chamber when the murderers 
left it on their first visit. John of Salisbury was 
present at the scene which then took place. When 
the knights left the apartment, " the man of God 
returned to his seat, and complained to those 
about him of the king's message and the abusive 
language of his messengers ; upon which one of 
his clerks, Master John of Salisbury, a man of 
much learning, great eloquence, and profound 
wisdom, and what is better than all these, one 
stedfast in the fear and love of God, returned 
this answer to his complaints, ' My lord, it is a 
most remarkable thing that you will take advice 
from no one. What need was there in a man of 
your rank to rise up, only to exasperate them still 
more, and to follow them out to the door ? Would 
it not be better to have taken counsel with those 
who were with you, and given them a milder 
answer; for their malice seeks only how to do 
their worst against you, and by provoking you to 
anger to catch you tripping in your talk.' But 

DEC. 29, 1170.] THE MARTYRDOM. 339 

the holy man, who longed for death as for the 
enjoyment of rest and peace in defence of right, 
and the liberty of the Church, replied, ' My coun- 
sel is now all taken ; I know well enough what I 
have to do.' ' I trust to God it will be so,' said 
Master John, ' and that it may turn out well ?' " 

It would indeed be marvellous to meet with any 
individual, whose life and actions have been so 
minutely enquired into and criticised as those of 
Becket, without detecting some blemish or other 
among the virtues with which nature had endowed 
him. A censure, proceeding from the mouth of 
so upright a man, and so correct a judge of human 
conduct as John of Salisbury, could not have been 
pronounced without cause. This brief interchange 
of words between the two furnishes another argu- 
ment in proof of the view of Becket's character, 
which we have before been led to entertain. He 
was a man of exquisite ability, and qualified to suc- 
ceed in every thing that he undertook, because he 
had not only the genius to perceive great ends, 
and facility in the adoption of means to attain 
them, but his mind was of so indomitable a nature, 
that the pertinacity with which he clung to all 
that he undertook would, in most cases, be a 
valuable element of success. But his unbending 
spirit was perhaps in this instance fatal to him. 
It is no doubt a hard thing for those who stand 
on safe ground to advise or reprove those who are 



engaged in a mortal struggle, and when the dis- 
graced and outraged prelate poured his complaints 
into the ears of his faithful adherents, we may 
believe that he complained in sincerity and truth ; 
that the king's renewed unkindness, and still more 
the choice of such brutal messengers of his will, 
had cut him to the quick ; there are spirits still as 
invincible as those of Becket, in whose souls the 
same unconquerable perseverance is united to the 
same sensitiveness to injustice ; and if they did 
once feel some little doubt whether they had not 
gone too far, when an additional load of wrong or 
insult obliterates the faint impression, and precipi- 
tates them on their headlong course, it is the frailty 
of the species which is in fault, and not of the 
individual. We may be sure that the monitor, 
who gave so sharp a rebuke to the archbishop, 
and yet adhered to him to the last, would hardly 
have done so to a man in whom obstinacy was a 
leading, and not rather a minor and subordinate 
point of character. But the reproof which John 
of Salisbury bestowed upon his friend, so soon to 
be martyred, would seem to derive its justice from 
the practicability of the advice which had been 
tendered, and which the archbishop had refused. 
When John of Salisbury advised him to commu- 
nicate with the murderers on their first visit 
through his attendants, it would no doubt have 
been wise of the archbishop to assent ; but whether 

1170.] THE MARTYRDOM. 341 

those fierce soldiers would have allowed it, is a 
question which cannot now be decided, though 
the course of events which followed, seems to show 
that they would have been content to communi- 
cate with no other than the archbishop himself. 
Whether a milder reply might have been given to 
their message, is a question also beset with diffi- 
culties ; but this was just the difficulty which a 
deputed agent might have avoided ; if, according to 
the advice of John of Salisbury, the archbishop had 
appointed him or some other equally able diplo- 
matist to negociate for him with the messengers: 
but meeting them in his own person, he had no 
other alternative than to give or withhold his 
consent to absolve the bishops who had been 





LET us follow the perpetrators of the deed of blood 
from the Church where their victim's body was 
lying, to the palace, whither they went as fast as 
their legs could carry them. "Whilst some of 


them forcibly removed the horses out of the 
stables, others attacked and wounded the servants, 
and breaking open the desks, coffers, and treasu- 
ries of the palace, divided among them all the gold 
and silver, clothes and other ornaments which they 
could find 6 ." Whilst this work of pillage was 
proceeding, a singular circumstance happened, 
which is thus related by Herbert de Bosham. 

" Among other things they found two shirts of 
sackcloth, which Christ's holy champion used to 
wear next to his naked skin ; these they neither 
divided, nor yet drew lots for them, but cast them 
aside as rubbish, and of no use to them. They 
were somewhat astonished at finding so strong and 
evident a proof of the archbishop's zeal for reli- 
gion. Wherefore also some of their band con- 
fessed with the centurion in the Gospel, though 
in smothered accents for fear of the others, ' Truly 
this was a righteous man !' and they went away 
from the palace beating their breasts with their 
hands. One of the murderous knights repenting 
of what he had done, made confession afterwards 
to the bishop of his diocese, that whereas they had 
gone to the Church at first with all alacrity of mind, 
and even with rejoicing, yet the deed was no 
sooner done than they returned with hesitating 
steps, the ground seemed to yawn beneath them, 

6 Benedict. 

1170.] THE PALACE. 343 

as if it would swallow them up alive. The bishop, 
to whom this confession was made, was Bartholo- 
mew, of excellent memory, bishop of Exeter, but 
the murderer who made this confession was Wil- 
liam de Tracy before-mentioned." 

By these acts we may form some idea of the 
lawlessness which still prevailed in England, not- 
withstanding all that Henry II. had done to 
remedy it. Robbery and murder were still inse- 
parable companions, and even the solemnity of 
public justice could with difficulty be maintained, 
without such scenes of pillage as has been just 
related in the plundering of the palace of Canter- 

The contemporary writers dwell with satisfac- 
tion on the contrast between the glorious martyr- 
dom of the saint, and the subsequent ill fortunes 
of his murderers. Let us take the panegyric of 
John of Salisbury as a sample of what all have 
written on the same subject. 

"Under this dispensation of Almighty Provi- 
dence, we must not omit to notice what has 
attracted the admiration of all men, as tending to 
display the glory of God and his martyr ; how all 
the minute circumstances of his passion combined 
to set forth his praise, and the impiety and eternal 
reprobation of his persecutors. If we would con- 
trast their persons ; on the one hand, we have a 
piaus archbishop, primate of all Britain, and legate 


of the Apostolic See, a righteous judge, the ac- 
ceptor neither of persons nor of presents, the 
assertor of the liberty of the Church, a very tower 
set up in Jerusalem looking towards Damascus, a 
mallet to crush the wicked, but a consoler of the 
poor, and of those who mourn. Let those who 
choose consider whom they have to place in the 
opposite scale against him. If it be the cause 
which makes the martyr, of which no one has ever 
entertained a doubt, what can be more just or holy 
than the cause of that man, who, despising all the 
wealth and glory of the world, and holding as 
nothing the affection of friends, and of all his 
kindred in comparison with the love of Christ, 
submitted to banishment, exposing himself and his 
followers to poverty and every danger, and strove 
to the death against the wicked abuses of former 
tyrants, and when he*had once fallen, but reco- 
vered himself again, could not be induced by the 
schemes of his enemies to consent to any thing 
that was required of him, but to every form of 
words added the clause, * Saving the honour of 
God, and the credit of the Church.' Nor was he 
one of those whose faith is moderate, and lasts 
only for a time, but in the hour of temptation 
falls away; for he endured his exile and bitter 
proscription with all its adversities, even to the 
seventh year, treading so firmly in the path of 
constancy, and the footsteps of Christ's apostles, 


that his mind could neither be broken by the open 
assaults of fortune, nor softened by its blandish- 
ments. Consider, too, where he fell. In the 
Church of Canterbury, the capital of the kingdom, 
and mother in Christ of all its other churches ; 
before the altar, among his fellow-priests and other 
religious men who had been brought to witness the 
horrid sight by the tumult which his murderers 
excited. If then he had long before prepared 
himself a living sacrifice pleasing and acceptable to 
God, if he had in his prayers and watchings, by 
fastings and the severest use of sackcloth, crucified 
the flesh, and the desires thereof, if he had exposed 
his back to the lash, (though only those who were 
most intimate with him knew it,) like a little 
child of Christ, if after having offered on the altar 
the body and blood of Christ, he at length offered 
there his own body a victim to the hands of the 
wicked, did there ever live a man who had a more 
glorious title to be called a martyr ?" 

With this encomium on the martyr, let us 
contrast the account of what befel his mur- 

" Whereas they had been originally great and 
noble in the world, owners of large possessions, 
brave knights, and skilled in the art of war, and 
were in the flower of their age ; no sooner had 
they done the deed than they abandoned every 
thing, and setting out for Jerusalem, entered on a 


long course of penance. All of them were cut 
off from this life within three years ; in real and 
fruitful penitence (as is believed by those who wit- 
nessed it) for the enormity of their crime, which 
they seemed to have ever hanging before their 
eyes, both whilst they yet lived, and at the moment 
of their death ; their whole body trembled with 
horror and convulsions ; whilst they unceasingly, 
both living and dying, supplicated pardon of Him 
who is the patron of sinners, through the very 
mediation of him on whom they had wrought so 
great a sacrilege. 

" One of the murderers, however, following 
evil advice, delayed his departure for Jerusalem 
from day to day after the others were gone, hoping 
to achieve his penance without crossing the sea ; 
but he was surprised with his last illness, whilst in 
the king of Sicily's dominions at a large city called 
Consentia 7 , where in the course of his illness his 
limbs began to rot, and the sick man himself 
would tear off portions of the flesh without any 
difficulty, and throw them into the middle of the 
room, so that his bones and nerves were exposed 
to sight. In particular, the flesh of his hands and 
arms would not remain on his bones, but seemed 
desirous of being separated from the person of 
that bloody, but I hope repentant soldier, and they 

7 Cosenza. 

1170.] OF THE MURDERERS. 347 

fell, as if voluntarily, upon the floor. You might 
have fancied that the flesh was indignant at form- 
ing part in the composition of hands that had per- 
petrated so horrible a crime. But all this time, 
whilst the wretch was thus tearing his limbs, and 
casting his flesh from him, he unceasingly, with 
sighs and groans, and contrition that no words can 
describe, implored pardon and protection of the 
glorious martyr. This was William de Tracy, 
on whom the God of vengeance thus visited the 
blood of his saint which cried to him for justice. 
For it was he who spurred on the others, and who 
dared first amongst them, as is thought, to wave 
his sword aloft, and inflict a wound on the head of 
the servant of the Lord. It was therefore a just 
retribution of the Almighty, that his limbs should 
rot, contrary to the laws of nature, even whilst he 
was alive, and the hand and arm decay which had 
wielded the murderous sword. We have this ac- 
count from the bishop of the aforesaid city, who 
confessed the above-named William in his last 

"To return to his three partners in iniquity, 
whose death most miraculously and undoubtedly 
took place, as we have said, within the short 
space of three years ; thus in so brief an interval 
not one of them was left; and no doubt the 
Divine mercy, as is the general belief, so ruled it 
with them, and so cut them off to the terror of 


evil doers, and the miraculous vindication of his 
servant, that those men of blood, however penitent, 
as we have said they were, might nevertheless, 
according to the word of the Lord, see only half 
the usual length of life." 



THE legends of the Church, though far removed 
in style from the simplicity of the ancient classics, 
yet abound in wild and picturesque description, 
and not unfrequently mount very near to the 
regions of true sublimity. Poetic imagery breaks 
out occasionally in their narratives, which it re- 
quires no peculiar study to appreciate. If the sacri- 
fice of Iphigenia has pleased us in the tragic page 
of Euripides, we shall recognize the same beauty of 
thought in the following description of Becket's 
resignation to his untimely fate. 

" Our holy father thought it no trifling part of 
his martyrdom to fall with that decency which 
became the death of one who died for Christ ; for 
until all was finished and the sacrifice complete, 
he remained immovable in his position, with his 
knees bent beneath him and his hands clasped 

1170.] BURIAL OF THE BODY. 349 

above his head 8 : controlling the infirmity of 
human nature, he raised neither his arm nor his 
robe to shield himself from their blows, nor did 
one groan, one sound, escape him to show that he 
felt the pain, but when he had held his head un- 
dauntedly to receive the stroke, he would not 
draw it back, until it became a mass of blood and 
brains, and his body sunk upon the floor in an 
attitude of prayer, whilst his spirit ascended to 
Abraham's bosom 9 ." 

It appears that the alarm had been given in 
the city, even before the deed of murder was 
completed, and if we are to interpret some ex- 
pressions of the preceding accounts literally, the 
people had already begun to flock together to the 
church. "All were thunderstruck at such an 
awful event, and rushed to the spot, beating their 
breasts and clasping their hands in agony for the 
loss of their father and protector. Not the rich, 
whose fear overcame them, but the poor hastened 
to view the body of the soldier of the great 
King, who had thus been murdered ; for, whilst 
still militant on earth, he had always been the 
support of the poor, a father to the orphan, the 
aider of those who were in the state of pupillage, 
the judge of the widow, and the consoler of those 
who mourned. All these, and these alone, flocked 

* Herbert de Bosham. 9 Edw, Grim. 


together to the church. They threw themselves 
upon the holy corpse, which was still lying sense- 
less on the floor, kissing with the utmost reve- 
rence the hands and feet '. 

" At length the monks dismissed the multitude 
and closed the doors of the church 2 . Night was 
now approaching, for it was in the evening that 
the deed of darkness was perpetrated ; the skull 
with its crown of anointing was hanging like a 
quoit from the martyr's head, to which it was 
attached by a small portion of skin : this they 
restored to its place, fitting it on as well as they 
were able. They then lifted the hallowed corpse 
just as it was lying on the pavement, without 
taking off the clothes or washing it, as monks 
generally do when they bury a dead body, and 
carrying it on their shoulders, laid it down in 
front of the high altar 3 . On moving the corpse 
from the ground, they found under it an iron 
hammer and a battle-axe which the murderers had 
left behind them 4 . Moreover, the blood had 
congealed round his head in the form of a crown, 
typifying, probably, his sanctity ; but his face was 
entirely free from stains, save one slender stream, 

1 Herbert de Bosham. 2 Roger de Pontigny. 

3 Herbert de Bosham. 

4 "One of the murderers, besides his sword, had an axe for 
bursting open the door : he put this down on the pavement ; 
and it still remains there." FITZ-STEPHEN. 

1170.] BURIAL OF THE BODY. 351 

which had descended diagonally from the right 
side of his forehead to the left side of his neck. 
And some who had never heard of this circum- 
stance said, that he had appeared to them in a 
vision in that state, describing it as minutely as if 
they had seen it with their own eyes. 

" Whilst the body still lay on the pavement, 
some of them smeared their eyes with the blood, 
others brought bottles and carried off secretly as 
much of it as they could, and some cut off shreds 
from their garments, and, dipping them in the 
blood, kept them as relics. At a later period no 
one was contented who had not carried away 
something or other as a memorial of the precious 
body, and indeed when every thing was in such 
a state of tumult, there was nothing to prevent 
them from doing as they pleased. Some of the 
blood was carefully and cleanly gathered up into 
a clean bottle and treasured up in the church. 
His pall and outer pelice, stained with blood, 
were with indiscreet benevolence given to the 
poor to pray for his soul : and happy would it 
have been for them if they had not with unad- 
vised haste sold them for a little paltry money 5 . 

"The monks placed the body for the night 
before the high altar (as we have before said), and 
kept watch themselves round it with much sor- 

* Benedict. 


row and tribulation 6 . During the whole time, in 
addition to the copious discharge which had taken 
place at the first, drops of blood continued to 
ooze from the suture where the severed skull had 
been replaced 7 ; this was caught in a dish which 
the monks placed for that purpose 8 . Though so 
much blood had flowed from the wound, yet the 
face did not turn pale or become thinner than 
before : the forehead was not more wrinkled, nor 
the eyes smaller or more sunk ; there was no 
dropping from the mouth and nostrils, the neck 
was not emaciated, nor the shoulders fallen ; the 
body retained its elasticity and the skin its firm- 
ness 9 . The beauty of his countenance still re- 
mained, and even in death he bore that serene 
and hallowed smile upon his lips which he had 
always cherished in his mind. He seemed, in 
fact, not so much to have breathed his last, as to 
have closed his eyes whilst the fresh colour was 
still upon his cheeks, and to have fallen into a 
sound slumber 1 . 

"Thus the night passed away in lamentation 
and mourning, not a ray of gladness shed its light 
upon the sad scene, and when the day dawned, 
it seemed to be the harbinger of greater tribu- 
lation 2 . 

6 Roger de Pontigny. r Herbert. 

8 Roger de Pontigny. ' Herbert de Bosham. 

1 William of Canterbury. a Benedict. 

1170.] BURIAL OF THE BODY. 353 

" In the morning a large number of men were 
assembled in arms outside the walls of the city, 
and it was said that they intended to carry mat- 
ters still further 3 . Soon after, Robert de Broc 
appeared on the part of Randolf de Broc, and 
calling together the monks addressed them thus : 
' The world is at last relieved of that disloyal 
traitor, who deserves to be handled just as roughly 
now he is dead, as when he was alive ; do you 
therefore remove him out of the way as fast as 
possible, and throw him into some place where 
nobody may know of it : or else I warn you we 
will drag him out by the feet, and tear him in 
pieces for the dogs and swine 4 .' Herbert de 
Bosham adds to this account, that the monks were 
strictly forbidden to place his coffin along with 
those of the archbishops his predecessors. 

" In this emergency the monks, fearing lest the 
threat of mutilating the body should be put in 
execution, and so precious a treasure be taken 
from them, prepared to bury it with all despatch. 
They therefore had no time to wash and embalm 
the body, according to the custom of the Church 
of Canterbury 5 . ' And this,' says Benedict, * we 
must believe to have been occasioned, not so much 
by the malice of men as by the providence of 

3 Benedict. 4 Roger de Pontigny. 

5 The narrative is Benedict's ; Herbert de Bosham, how- 
ever, says they did wash the body. 

VOL. II. A a 


God. For the saint who had been anointed in 
the stream of his own blood, could have no need of 
the embalmment of less precious perfumes.' They 
therefore stripped the body of its outward cloth- 
ing, and put on it the pontifical robes ; in doing 
which they discovered a shirt of sackcloth no 
less painful from its stiffness than from other 
causes; attended with an additional circumstance 
of which we know of no example in the case of 
any other saint 6 : they found the whole body 
covered with sackcloth, not only his back, but his 
shoulders, arms, and thighs 7 . On seeing this, the 
monks looked at one another, astonished beyond 
measure at this proof of a religious severity 
which he had hitherto kept concealed, and at this 
second cause of sorrow, burst again into a flood 

8 Benedict. 

7 Herbert de Bosham. Fitz-Stephen's account of this is as 
follows : " Here brother Robert, a priest and canon of the 
religious house of Merton, who was confessor to the archbishop, 
and had been his chaplain and constant companion since the 
day he was ordained, discovered to the monks what none of us 
were till then aware of, that the archbishop was in a hair shirt ; 
and thrust his hand into his bosom, showing us the hair shirt 
next his skin, and above it the habit of a monk. 

" The monks, in an ecstasy of spiritual joy, lifted up their 
heads to heaven, and magnified God, for the archbishop's two- 
fold martyrdom the voluntary one of his life, the violent one 
of his death. They prostrate themselves ; they kiss his hands 
and feet; they proclaim aloud the glorious martyr and saint. 
All come to see the new attire of the once splendid chan- 

1170.] BURIAL OF THE BODY. 355 

of tears. How could they suspect such a man of 
ambition or treachery? Could he ever have set 
his thoughts upon an earthly kingdom, who had 
thus in secret preferred sackcloth above all earthly 
pleasures ? Was he not the betrayed rather than 
the betrayer of his king, who would neither slay 
his betrayers, those sons of perdition, nor when 
he was able, resist them ? He had it in his power, 
if he had so minded, to avoid the rage of his 
enemies, or to repel it by force 8 ." 

Such are the reflections in which the historians 
indulge in recording the discovery of the sack- 
cloth when the archbishop's body came to be 
stripped for burial. Whatever opinion may be 
entertained in the present day respecting such 
mortifications of the flesh, it is certain that at the 
period of which we are writing, they were con- 
sidered high proofs of a religious life. It is 
equally clear from the unvarying testimony of all 
the biographers, that Becket did not wear the 
sackcloth shirt by way of ostentation, for it was 
unknown that he wore it at all till the day of his 
burial. There seems no reason for doubting that 
he was sincere in those feelings which prompted 
him to assume this austere garb, whatever may 
have been the other traits of his character, to 
form the darker shades of the moral picture. 

" Benedict. 
A a2 


But to return from this digression : " When the 
body had been stripped of its clothing, the monks 
put other vestments upon it, such as the archbishops 
of Canterbury are usually buried in. There was in 
the crypt of the cathedral a tomb that had been 
made some days before, most appropriately as it 
happened, and made, as one might fancy, for this 
very purpose ; it was hewn out of stone, and no 
one had ever yet been buried in it. Here, there- 
fore, they placed the dead body of the archbishop 
in this new tomb before the altars of Saint John 
the Baptist and Saint Augustine, Apostle of the 
English, and they kept the place concealed as much 
as possible, for fear of those who had been perse- 
cuting them 9 ." 

In conclusion, we learn from Abbot Benedict 
that Becket was killed on Tuesday the twenty- 
ninth of December, about five o'clock in the 
evening, in the year of our Lord one thousand 
one hundred and seventy, and in the fifty-third 
year of his age. 

' Herbert de Bosbam. 




THE dreadful event which we have thus traced 
minutely through all its details was speedily 
borne to the ears of king Henry, who was then 
at Argenteuil in Normandy. The following let- 
ters will furnish the best description of what 
passed when the mournful intelligence arrived. 



"WHILST we were lately assembled in council 
before our lord the king, and supposed we were 
going to discuss important matters connected with 
the Church, the sudden news about the arch- 
bishop of Canterbury plunged us all into the 
deepest distress, so that our senses were astounded 
and our deliberations were turned into mourning. 
We are told by some who are just come over from 
England, that certain enemies of the archbishop, 
provoked to madness, it is said, by frequent causes 
of exasperation, have suddenly set upon him, and 


I can hardly write for my tears have at- 
tacked his person and put him to a cruel death. 
This lamentable deed has already reached the king's 
ears ; for such a thing could not be concealed from 
him, whose duty it assuredly is that the crime 
shall not pass unpunished. At the first words of 
the messenger the king burst into loud lamenta- 
tion, and exchanged his royal robes for sackcloth 
and ashes, acting more like a friend than the 
sovereign of the deceased. At times he ceased 
his cries and became stupid ; after which he burst 
again into cries and lamentations louder than be- 
fore. Three whole days he spent in his chamber, 
and would receive neither food nor consolation, but 
by the excess of his grief it seemed as if he had 
thoroughly made up his mind to die. The state 
of things indeed became alarming, and we had 
now a double cause of anxiety. First we had to 
lament the death of the bishop, now we almost 
despaired of the life of the king, and so in losing 
one we thought our evil fortune would deprive us 
of both. When his friends, and particularly the 
bishops, complained that he seemed determined 
not to abandon his grief, he answered that his fear 
was, lest the perpetrators of the deed, together 
with their accomplices, remembering his old 
enmity with the bishop, might have promised 
themselves impunity on that account : he thought 
it likely that his enemies would endeavour to 

1170.] BY THE DEED. 359 

sully his reputation, by saying that the deed had 
been done with his privity ; whereas he called God 
to witness that he neither had consented to it, nor 
knew that it was going to be perpetrated, and 
that he had practised no deception by which it 
could have been brought about, unless it were an 
error that the world knew he was not yet quite 
reconciled to the archbishop. On this head he 
submits himself to the judgment of the church, 
whose award he will abide by, whatever it may 
be. Thus, then, after a consultation held, the 
matter is referred to the wisdom and authority of 
the apostolic see, which the whole of Christendom 
knows to possess both the spirit of wisdom and 
plenitude of power ; before whose tribunal the 
king will study to prove his innocence in the pro- 
per way according to the canons. We entreat 
you, therefore, according to the spirit of counsel 
and authority which God has given you, to recom- 
pense the authors of this deed according to the 
heinousness of what they have done, and in your 
apostolic affection to uphold the king's innocence. 
May Almighty God preserve your person in safety 
to rule his Church for many years to come !" 



" As I sat down to write these lines, nay, even 


before I took my pen in hand to write, I stopped 
to consider in what words I could describe to, 
your holiness the dreadful deed which has been 
wrought on the person of God's chosen servant. 
I doubt not that the cry of the whole world has 
already filled your ears, how the king of England, 
enemy to Christ and all his angels, has wrought 
his malignity on the holy man, son of your right 
hand, whom you had chosen. You have, no 
doubt, my father, heard of his death and the 
manner of his death, but I will endeavour to give 
your holiness an account of what has been told 
me by those who were present, and it is impos- 
sible for the imagination to conceive a deed more 
atrocious. At Christmas, the day after the feast 
of the Holy Innocents, at the hour of vespers, 
four armed murderers, whose ever to be execrated 
names are these, William de Tracy, Reginald 
Fitz-Urse, Hugh de Moreville, and Richard Briton, 
advanced ferociously to the holy man, and when 
saluted by him, made him no return, but de- 
manded of him the immediate absolution of the 
excommunicates. When he modestly replied that 
it was not in his power to interfere against your 
superior authority, they threatened him on the 
part of the king and returned to their band, 
calling on the archbishop's servants to accompany 
and aid them. A similar proclamation was issued 
through the whole city. But Christ's champion 

1170.] BY THE DEED. 361 

paid no heed to the threats of princes, and could 
hardly be prevailed on to leave the spot where 
the message of death had been declared. At 
last, by God's providence, he entered the Church, 
which is dedicated to the name of Christ, and 
there he was offered up a victim for Christ's name, 
where he had often offered up Christ a victim 
to propitiate God the Father ! When his hour 
was come he stretched forth his head and bent 
his neck to receive the cup that he was to drink, 
and had the crown of his head shaved off by the 
four murderers, after having first been loaded 
with every epithet of abuse, that he might in all 
respects be assimilated to the passion of our Lord 
himself. He forbade them to harm any of his 
household, and entered the holy of holies, himself 
the priest, himself the only victim. And whereas 
since his death, we have heard from many that 
God's power has through him wrought many 
miracles, I must not pass them over without 
notice. It is said, and asserted with confidence, 
that since his passion he has appeared to many, 
and told them that he is not dead but alive, and 
shewed them not wounds, but healed cicatrices 
where wounds had been. 

"Arise then, thou man of God, and put on 
the strength of those whose seat thou fillest ; up, 
thou son of the smiters ! Let anger and pity 


both rouse thee ; the one for thy son, the other 
for the tyrant : and maintain on earth the glories 
of him, whom God so glorifies from heaven ! but 
let ignominy be his who has on earth so horribly 
persecuted the Lord. He has slain the father in 
the bosom of his mother, he hath rent thy child 
from thee, and trodden in the dust him whom 
thou lovedst above all men, and his foul and un- 
circumcised vassals have slain him without regard 
to the age or the paternal feelings of thee his 
father! Put forth then the zeal of thy prede- 
cessors. Ahab slew, and Ahab took possession ; 
but this crime surpasses all the crimes of the 
wicked, the cruelty of Nero, the apostasy of 
Julian, and the sacrilegious perfidy of Judas. 
What a noble victim, and in what a noble Church ! 
slain also at the holy time of Christmas, and on 
the day after that of the blessed Innocents, a 
deed in these our days equal to the barbarity of 

" Nor was the tyrant deterred from the crime 
by the peace which he had publicly granted ; and, 
as if his own frenzy were insufficient, he was 
urged on by those false and execrated sons of the 
Church, Roger, not arch-bishop but arch-devil 
of York, and the bishops of London and Salis- 
bury, who slew their brother Joseph in reality, 
without regard to their aged father's malediction. 

1170.] BY THE DEED. 363 

Whose life, that it may be in perpetual bitterness, 
and their death a curse, is the retribution which 
your holiness can give us. 

" The bearers of these present are Master 
Alexander and Master Gunter, good and honest 
men, who were associated with God's martyr in 
his life, and cannot be separated from him in 
death. We beg to recommend them to your 
notice, and have commissioned them to tell your 
holiness by word of mouth, many things which 
we were unwilling to commit to writing." 



" To your apostleship, holy father, is given all 
power both in heaven and in earth ..... We 
have deemed it right to inform your holiness, that 
whereas you deputed his lordship of Rouen and 
myself to place all the king of England's domi- 
nions on this side of the sea under an interdict, 
unless he should observe the peace which he 
pledged to his lordship of Canterbury, of blessed 
memory, and whereas you authorized either of 
us to fulfil your orders, if the other could not 
be present ; this is to certify, that the archbishop 
of Rouen aforesaid, came to Sens according to 
your orders, in company with Arnulf of Lisieux, 


Giles of Evreux, Roger of Worcester, and other 
clerks and laics of the king's household; where 
after many excuses and tergiversations he ap- 
pealed to the apostolic see, saying, that he was 
already on his way to your presence, and would 
not add any further exasperation to the king of 
England's anger. We, therefore, according to 
your commands, and having taken counsel with 
all our brethren the bishops, with the abbats of 
St. Denis, St. German des pres, Pontigny and 
Wallace, and other religious persons, have pro- 
nounced sentence on all his cismarine dominions, 
and enjoined the bishops in your name to obey 
the sentence. For we know that the king has 
not restored the possessions, nor observed the 
peace, as the death of the martyr testifies. More- 
over he sent word to us by the Carthusian monk, 
who went to him from us, that he had given 
occasion for his death, and was, in fact, his 
murderer. We, therefore, entreat your clemency 
to ratify this our sentence, and cause it to be ob- 
served to the honour of God and credit of ourselves, 
who have endeavoured, as far as in us lay, to up- 
hold the sanctity of the apostolic see. Farewell !" 

1170.] BY THE DEED. 565 



" BE it known to your majesty, that Richard de 
Barre went on at great risk before us to the court 
of our Lord the pope, and we four with the two 
bishops, and the dean of Evreux and master Henry, 
arrived at Sens with much difficulty. There we 
were detained some days, for Count Macaire was 
lying in wait at all the roads, and it was next to 
impossible to pass. After many attempts, we 
were reduced to great perplexity, and at length by 
common consent escaped privately by night. Thus 
after a most perilous journey over mountains and 
wilds, we reached Tusculanum. We there found 
Richard de Barre doing his utmost, as was his 
duty, to promote your interests, but much vexed 
because neither the pope nor any other person 
showed him any attention. This was also our 
case ; for the pope would not admit us to the kiss, 
nor even to approach the foot of his throne. And 
the cardinals, for the most part, would hardly speak 
a word to us. This gave us much uneasiness, and 
we entreated those of your party to persuade the 
pope to give us audience. By their mediation his 


lordship, the abbat of Wallatia, and the archdeacon 
of Lisieux, who were the least objects of suspicion, 
were admitted to an audience. But even they no 
sooner spoke of you as a devoted son of the 
Church, than the whole court exclaimed, * Hold ! 
hold !' as if even your majesty's name was offen- 
sive in their ears. Late in the evening they went 
again before his holiness, and, as we had all agreed 
together, explained to him your majesty's instruc- 
tions, and recalled to his memory the individual 
acts of service which you had rendered the arch- 
bishop of Canterbury, and the excesses which he 
had committed against your dignity. All this was 
said first in private, and afterwards in the presence 
of the pope and all the cardinals, whilst Alexander 
Lewellen, and Gunter the Fleming, clerks of the 
archbishop, spoke against them in favour of the 
opposite side of the question. As Thursday before 
Easter was at hand, in which the pope is used to 
pronounce public absolution or excommunication, 
we were sure that they had deliberated on the 
propriety of dealing harshly with you and your 
kingdom, wherefore we consulted those whom we 
looked upon as your majesty's friends, namely, his 
lordship of Portus, Hyacinth, his lordship of Pavia, 
of Tusculuin, and Peter de Mirso, for John of 
Naples was absent, and we entreated them to find 
out what were the pope's intentions. Their report 
was unfavourable, and brother Frank, on whose 

1170.] BY THE DEED. 367 

fidelity you can rely, told us also the same, namely, 
that the pope intended on that day to excommu- 
nicate you by name, and lay all your dominions on 
both sides of the sea under an interdict. In this 
strait we used all our influence to persuade his 
holiness to waive this intention, or to defer it till 
your bishops should arrive. Failing in this, and 
feeling it our duty not lightly to suffer this severity 
to fall on your majesty's person and kingdom, we 
called together all our friends and the cardinals, 
and adopted a plan for averting the impending 
sentence, and took all the hazard upon ourselves, 
from a firm conviction that things would turn out 
agreeably to your wishes, and to what we think 
ought to be your wishes. For in our alarm we 
signified to the pope through the mediation of the 
cardinals, that you had instructed us to swear in 
his presence that you would abide by his decision, 
and that you will ratify this by your own personal 
oath. On that same day, therefore, namely Thurs- 
day, about the ninth hour, your messengers and 
those of the bishops were summoned, and all of 
us, namely the abbat of Wallatia, the archdeacon 
of Salisbury and Lisieux, master Henry and 
Richard Barre, swore in full consistory that you 
will abide by his sentence, and will take this oath 
yourself at his bidding. 

" The pope, therefore, on that day excommuni- 
cated in general terms the murderers of the arch- 


bishop, and all who had given them counsel, ap- 
probation, or assistance, and all who had received 
them into their estates. The lord bishops of 
Worcester and Evreux, with Robert de New- 
burgh, and Master Henry, were to come the 
next day. We left them beyond measure vexed 
that they could not come, as they wished, to dis- 
charge your errand. It was their opinion, as well 
as our own, that we should go on before them as 
well as we could, and prevent the disgrace and 
detriment which we knew our enemies to be pre- 
paring for you. We knew the court had some 
intentions of inflicting it upon you, and we feared 
much the practice of that day. We have heard 
nothing more of the envoys, whom you sent to the 
emperor. As for your secret which you sent us 
by Reginald in presence of William Fitz-Hamon, 
and afterwards the abbat of Wallatia, we have good 
hopes that it will be done. Farewell, and may 
your highness long prosper ; be not discouraged, 
for this cloud will soon be followed by sunshine. 
We arrived at the court on the Saturday before 
Palm Sunday, and the bearer of this starts on 
Easter Sunday." 



" Who were the first messengers that the king 

1170.] BY THE DEED. 369 

sent, who the second, and what both deputations 
wanted, and how they left the court, I will tell you 
in as few words as possible. The first envoys were 
John Cumin and master David, and their object 
was to obtain absolution and indulgence for the 
bishops. John Cumin arrived about fifteen days 
before Master David fc and with much entreaty was 
admitted to a hearing, not however until he pro- 
mised a douceur of five hundred marks. He was 
backed by some clerks from the archbishop of 
York, and an envoy from Durham who spoke 
much in extenuation of the offence of the bishops. 
And it is my opinion that they would have ob- 
tained their absolution, if the news of the arch- 
bishop of Canterbury's death had not come, and 
thrown every thing into confusion. Our lord the 
pope was so shocked at the news, that for eight 
days he refused to see even his own people ; and 
issued a general edict that no Englishman should 
be admitted into his presence. All their negotia- 
tions were at once suspended. 

" The second embassy consisted of the bishops 
Worcester and Evreux, the abbat of Wallatia, the 
archdeacons of Salisbury and Lisieux, lord Robert 
de Newburgh, Richard Barre, Master Henry Pin- 
chim, and a Templar ; their object was to defend 
the king from having either ordered or wished that 
the archbishop should be put to death ; but they 
did not deny that he had given cause for his death 

VOL. n. B b 


by uttering words which had led the murderers to 
slay him. But these second envoys did not arrive 
together, nor would the pope admit them or give 
them a hearing. In the next place, at the entreaty 
of certain of the cardinals, the abbat, and arch- 
deacon of Lisieux were admitted. The Thursday 
before Easter was approaching, and it was gene- 
rally said in the court that his lordship, the pope, 
would that day pass sentence of excommunication 
on the king and the kingdom. The ambassadors, 
therefore, in terror signified to the pope through 
the mediation of the cardinals, that they were in- 
structed by the king to swear that he would abide 
by his holiness's decision, and would himself make 
oath in his own person to the same effect. On 
Thursday, therefore, about the same hour, the 
messengers of the king and of the bishops were 
summoned, and the former, namely, the abbat of 
Wallatia, the two archdeacons, Henry, and Richard 
Barre swore in a full consistory that the king 
would abide by the pope's sentence, and make 
oath to that effect in his own person. The envoys 
of the bishops of London and Salisbury then 
swore, that their master would stand by his de- 
cision and would make oath to do so, in like 

" On the same day the pope excommunicated 
in general terms the murderers of the archbishop 
of Canterbury, and all who had given counsel, 

1170.] BY THE DEED. 371 

consent, or assistance to them, or received them 
on their estates. After Easter the bishops of 
Worcester and Evreux arrived, but I do not 
know whether they were called on to take the 
oath: it is certain that they did not take it. 
When they had been more than fifteen days at 
court, they were summoned to hear their answer : 
for they had made common cause with the others, 
as well in excusing as in accusing the king, as I 
have before stated. Whilst they were expecting 
a favourable reply, the pope confirmed the sen- 
tence of interdict, which his lordship of Sens had 
pronounced against the king's cismarine territories, 
and the excommunication and suspension which 
had been passed on the bishops. He ordered 
also that the king should abstain from entering 
the Church ; and added, that he would send 
legates to see if the king was truly humbled. 

" At last, after much urgency on the part of 
the envoys, and the intervention of certain car- 
dinals, not without a large sum of money, as it is 
said, passing between them, it was decided that 
the pope should write to the archbishop of 
Biourges with instructions, if he should not hear 
that the legates had passed the Alps within a 
month after the arrival of the envoys in Nor- 
mandy, to absolve the bishops of London and 
Salisbury from excommunication, having first ad- 
ministered an oath to them and others who were 
Bb 2 


suspended, that they would abide by the pope's 
decision. Thus the envoys returned without any 
further answer. I do not believe even the car- 
dinals know who are to be the legates, or when 
they are to start. However, you are now freed 
from all fear of an interdict in England, as I 
believe, if the king will listen to the legates. 
His lordship the pope has also written to the 
king, exhorting him to humility. But they had 
much difficulty in persuading him to write." 



"THE first meeting between our lord the king 
and the legates took place at Gorham on the 
Tuesday before Rogation : and the legates were 
admitted to kiss his majesty on the cheek. The 
next day they came to.Savigny, where the arch- 
bishop of Rouen and many bishops and nobles 
were assembled. After a long conference, the 
king refused to take the oath which they required, 
and left them in great anger, saying, 'I shall 
return to Ireland, where I have many things to 
attend to ; and you may go any where you please 
in my dominions, and exercise your legation as 
you think proper;' and so saying he left them. 

"After this the cardinals held a secret council 
with Lisieux, the archdeacon of Poitiers, and the 

1170.] BY THE DEED. 373 

archdeacon of Salisbury, and by their mediation 
the king and cardinals again met at Avranches 
on the following Friday. His majesty then heard 
all the cardinals had to propose, and assented with 
great urbanity and kindness to all their sugges- 
tions. But he wished his son to be present, and 
join in the terms which should be agreed to, for 
which reason the meeting was again adjourned 
to the following Sunday, which was the Sunday 
before our Lord's ascension. On that day the 
king, laying his hand upon the Gospels, made 
oath that he had never commanded nor wished 
that the archbishop of Canterbury should be put 
to death, and that when he heard of it, he rather 
grieved than rejoiced. He added also of his own 
accord, that he grieved more than he did for the 
death of his father or mother, and swore that he 
would perform to the letter whatever penance or 
satisfaction the cardinals shall require of him. 
For he admitted before all, that he had been the 
occasion of the archbishop's death, which had 
taken place entirely through him ; not that he had 
commanded it, but that his friends and attendants 
seeing the alteration in his countenance and the 
flashing of his eye, judged how his mind was 
disturbed within him, and when they heard his 
words of complaint about the archbishop, they 
prepared to revenge his wrongs : for which cause 


he would now do all that the legates required of 

" Upon this the legates signified to him that he 
should find two hundred knights at his own ex- 
pense, and maintain them for a year at the rate 
of three hundred guineas- a man, to fight against 
the Saracens in the Holy Land, under the com- 
mand of the Templars. 

" Secondly, to renounce the unlawful statutes 
of Clarendon and all other bad customs which 
had been introduced into the Church during his 
reign ; and to allow all such bad customs as had 
been introduced before his own reign to be in- 
vestigated and modified by the authority of the 
pope and a council of religious men. 

"Thirdly, to make ample restitution to the 
Church of Canterbury, both of its goods and 
landed possessions, in the same state as they 
existed the year before the archbishop incurred 
the king's anger ; and to reinstate all others who 
had been in disgrace for adhering to the arch- 
bishop, and take them again into his favour. 

" Fourthly, if necessary, and the pope should 
require it, to go into Spain and free that country 
from the pagans. 

"Besides all this, they enjoined him privately to 
practise fasting and almsgiving, and other acts 
which never came to the knowledge of the public. 

1170.] BY THE DEED. 375 

The king readily assented to all, saying, ' My lords 
the legates, I am wholly in your hands, and shall 
do whatever you tell ; I will go to Rome, to Jeru- 
salem, or to Saint Jago, if you wish it.' All who 
were present were much moved at the humility 
and contrition of his manner. 

" When this was settled, the legates, to leave 
nothing undone, led the king out with his own 
free will out of the Church, and there kneeling 
upon his knees, but without stripes, he received 
absolution, and was introduced anew into the 

" In the next place, that some of the French 
king's people might be informed how this cere- 
mony had been performed, it was determined that 
the archbishop of Tours and his suffragans should 
be requested to meet the king and the legates at 
Caen on the ensuing Tuesday after Ascension- 

" The king made oath that he would perform all 
that had been agreed on, and the young prince 
swore, that if his father should be prevented by 
death or any other cause from doing as he had 
promised, he would himself discharge the obliga- 
tion for him." 




" JOY for the whole body of the faithful at the 
miracles of that revered saint Thomas your arch- 
bishop ; but joy in particular for you, who have 
with your own eyes witnessed his miracles, and 
whose church is honoured by his sacred corpse. 
We, therefore, considering the glorious merits by 
which his life was distinguished, the public fame of 
his miracles, and the testimony of our beloved sons, 
the cardinals Albert and Theodwine, and others 
in whom we place full confidence, and having 
moreover taken counsel with our brethren in the 
Church before a large multitude of the clergy and 
of the laity, have solemnly canonized him, and 
decreed that he shall be enrolled in the catalogue 
of the saints and martyrs ; and we command you 
and the whole English Church by apostolical au- 
thority to solemnize his feast yearly on the day on 
which he finished his life by glorious martyrdom. 
Since, therefore, it is right and expedient to your- 
selves that his holy body should be buried with the 
reverence and honour that is his due, we command 
you to make solemn procession on some fitting day, 
when the clergy and people are met together, and 
place his body with all reverence on an altar, or 
elevate it in a chest suitable for the purpose, and 

1170.] BY THE DEED. 377 

pray that his pious intercessions for the whole 
body of the faithful, and the peace of the universal 
Church, may be offered up unto the Lord. Given 
at Signia, the 4th before the Ides of March." 



'*WE command you to make reconciliation for 
the Church of Canterbury, but not to repeat the 
sacrament of its original consecration, but only to 
follow the custom which prevails in our own 
Church of St. Peter, and sprinkle it with holy 
water. Farewell." 







I, WILLIAM FITZ-STEPHEN, to the glory of Almighty God, to perpe- 
tuate the memory of the blessed St. Thomas, and to the edification 
and profit of all those who read or hear this history, have endeavoured 
to write the life and passion of that excellent archbishop and martyr. 
I was the fellow-citizen of the same my good lord ; and in the capa- 
city of his clerk, I dwelt also in his house. It was by his special invi- 
tation and word of mouth, that I took part in the cares of his ministry; 
when he was chancellor, I was his dictator ; when he officiated in the 
chapel, I acted as his sub-dean ; during his sittings to hear causes, and 
to examine letters and such other instruments as were presented to him, 
I attended him as reader. Sometimes at his bidding I took on me the 
charge of certain causes, and when the council was held at Northamp- 
ton, where things reached so important a crisis, I was present with 
him ; I witnessed his martyrdom at Canterbury ; and there are many 
other events mentioned in this book, some of which I saw with my own 
eyes ; others I heard talk of ; and some were told me by those who had 
themselves witnessed them. 

Plato has given us a description of a commonwealth ; Sallustius has 
in his history enlarged on the geography of Africa on the occasion of 
the Carthaginian rebellion, when the Roman armies so often passed the 
sea to reduce that people to subjection ; and in like manner am I led, 
in speaking of the blessed St. Thomas, to preface my history with an 
account of the municipality of London. 


The Description of the Noble City of London. 

Among the celebrated cities of the world, known to fame, is the city 
of London, the seat of the English monarchy. As its reputation has ex- 
tended to every part of the globe, so also have its wealth and its traffic, 
and it holds its head higher than any other city. It enjoys a most 
salubrious climate, and, whilst it is blessed by the religion of Christ, it 
has the proudest walls for its defence, and the most favourable position 
for commerce; and in the manly honour of its citizens, the matronly 
chastity of its women, the sports and games invented for its pastimes, 
and the noble courage of its numerous male population, it is unrivalled. 
But let us examine these different points in order. 

In the first place, the mildness of the climate has a softening influence 
on the minds of its inhabitants, not to sink them in voluptuousness, but 
to make them kind and generous, not fierce, nor brutal. 

The bishop's seat is in the church of St. Paul ; it was once metro- 
politan, and is thought likely to become so again, if ever the natives 
return back into the island ; unless perhaps the archiepiscopal title of 
St. Thomas the martyr, and his bodily presence in the Church of Can- 
terbury shall secure the dignity for ever where it now is ; but on the 
other hand, as St. Thomas has honoured both these cities, London by 
his birth, and Canterbury by his death, the former of them has the 
better claim to urge, inasmuch as in addition to the plea of right, it 
has also been favoured by a portion of the patronage of the saint. As 
regards the Christian religion, there are also in London and the suburbs 
thirteen large conventual churches, besides smaller parish churches to 
the number of one hundred and twenty-six. 

On the eastern side of London is the Tower, which is also a palace, 
of great size, and strongly fortified ; the area and walls of which rise 
from foundations of the most solid construction, for the cement used 
for it was mixed with the blood of animals. On the west are two strong 
castles ; the wall of the city is high and thick, in a continued circle, 
with seven doubled gates, and turreted at intervals on the northern 
side. In the same manner the city was walled and turreted on the 
south ; but that great river, and full of fish, the Thames, washes it on the 
south, and its waters which ebb and flow have, by length of time, under- 
mined and destroyed the walls. Also on the western side, the king's 
palace towers over the river, an incomparable edifice, with an outer 
wall and battlements, two miles from the city, to which it is united by 
one long street. 

All round the city are suburban houses in the midst of gardens, 
planted with trees, spacious and beautiful, and so numerous that one 
touches the other. 

On the north also are fields, pasturages, and the most delightful level 
meadows, intersected by flowing streams, on which are mills, whose 
murmur and rapid motions give life to all around. In the immediate 
neighbourhood is a large forest, with lawns embosomed in the woods, 
full of animals, stags, fallow deer, and wild boars. 

The ploughed lands belonging to the city do not consist of a hungry 
gravelly soil, but are like the fertile plains of Asia, 

Which yield abundant crops, and load the bams 
Of those who reap them with the gifts of Ceres. 


There are also certain remarkable fountains in the suburbs towards 
the north of London, the water of which is sweet and wholesome, very 
clear, and running over a gravelly bottom. The principal of these are 
Holywell, Clerkenwell, and St. Clement's Well. These are the best 
known, and are most frequented by the scholars and youth of the city 
who go out to enjoy the fresh air on the summer evenings. It is, indeed, 
a good city if it only has a good master. 

It is honourable for its men, adorned by its deeds of chivalry, and 
contains a numerous population ; so that in the time of the civil wars 
under King Stephen, when those who were qualified for military ser- 
vice went out to a review, they were reckoned at twenty thousand 
armed cavalry, and sixty thousand infantry. The citizens of London 
are every where noted above all others, for the polish of their manners, 
their genteel dress, and well ordered table. The inhabitants of other 
cities are called citizens, but those of London are called nobles. An 
oath with them decides every dispute. The matrons of the city are 
very Sabines. 

There are three churches in London which have schools famous for 
their privileges and ancient dignity. But very often by especial favour 
of any of the better known, more schools are allowed, according to the 
particular department of philosophy. On holy days the magistrates 
have festive meetings at the churches. The scholars hold disputations, 
some in demonstrations, others in rhetoric ; some deal forth enthy- 
memes, others prefer to use the more accurate syllogism. Some exer- 
cise themselves in disputation for display, as between rivals ; others for 
the sake of truth. Sophists and pretenders signalize themselves by the 
volume and multiplicity of their words ; others deal in paradoxes. Some 
of them who are orators occasionally speak with rhetorical eloquence 
calculated to produce persuasion, taking care to observe the precepts 
of the art, and to omit nothing of contingent matters. The boys of 
different schools dispute with one another in verse, or contend about 
the principles of the grammatical art, or in the rules of prseterits and 
supines. Again, there are others who employ that trivial style of loqua- 
city which the ancients had among them, for epigrams, rhythms, and 
metres, and with Frescennine licence assail their companions with the 
utmost freedom, but suppress their names. Thus abuse and scoffing fly 
about : the faults of their companions, or perhaps of their ancestors, 
are made the subject of their Socratic wit, or satirized in bold dithy- 
rambics more severely than by the "tooth of Theon." The 

Receive each witticism as it flows, 

And laugh and laugh again with wrinkled nose. 

Of the Disposition of the City. 

Those who practise each particular profession, as well as the sellers 
of each separate merchandise, and those who expose the several pro- 
ducts of their labour, locate themselves every morning in places as dis- 
tinct as their occupations. There is, moreover, in London a public 
cook-shop, among the wines which are set to sale in the vessels and the 
wine-cellars. Here you will get every day, according to the season, all 


kinds of meats and dishes, roast, baked, fried, and boiled, fish both 
great and small, flesh of a coarser sort for the poor, but more delicate 
for the rich, venison, poultry, and game. If any one of the citizens is 
surprised by a visit from his friends, tired by their journey, and disin- 
clined to wait till fresh food can be bought and cooked to allay their 

Whilst ready menials bread in baskets bring, 
Towels for their hands, and water from the spring; 

some one runs down to the quay, where he finds every thing they 
want. Whatever may be the multitude of soldiers or foreigners who 
enter the city or leave it, at any hour of the day or night, there is no 
need that the former should come in to fast, or the others set out on 
an empty stomach ; down to the quay they go if they like, and each 
there gets what he wants. Indeed, those who like to take care of them- 
selves, need not look about for pheasants, or quails from Africa or 
Ionia, when they see what dainties will here be set before them. This, 
then, is the public cook-shop, and it is as beneficial to the city as it is 
useful in promoting civility. Hence we read in the Gorgias of Plato, 
that next to medicine is the office of the cook, which contains in 
it the fourth part of all civilization. There is immediately on the out- 
side of one of the gates in the suburb a certain plain ', both level in 
reality, and called so by name. Here every Friday, unless any superior 
festival prevents it, there is a weekly show of horses exposed for sale ; 
and those who happen to be in the city, both earls and barons, knights 
and citizens, go out to buy or to look at the horses. It is most amusing 
to see the palfreys with shining trappings, and walking delicately, 
raising and lowering at the same time both their feet on the same side, 
like subalterns in logic. In one place are horses calculated to be knights' 
chargers, walking more heavily, but yet nimbly, raising and lowering 
their opposite feet like logical contradictories. Elsewhere are young 
thorough-bred colts not yet broken in, 

With lofty step and limber legs advancing. 

Here may be seen pack-horses, with large and sinewy limbs ; there 
war-horses of great value, elegant in form, and tall of stature, with 
pricking ears, lofty neck, and broad haunches. Those who intend to 
buy them watch their steps and paces : first they try them at walking, 
and then they make them gallop, whilst they raise their front feet at the 
same time, and also their hind feet, and again lower them, like con- 
traries in logic. When there is a race between these steeds, and 
others perhaps who are equally strong of their sort for carrying 
burdens, and stout in the race, there is a general clamour raised ; all 
vulgar horses are ordered to go apart The riders of the horses, young 
lads, three together, sometimes two and two, according to agreement, 
prepare themselves for the contest, and skilful in governing the horses, 
they rein in their fierce mouths with bits that nothing can resist. They 
do every thing in their power to prevent their rivals from carrying off 
the victory. The horses, too, strain every nerve for the contest in the 

1 Smith-field, properly perhaps Smooth-field. 


same way ; their limbs tremble all over, as if they were impatient of the 
delay, and they are hardly able to stand in their places ; at a signal 
given they rush forward at full stretch with a speed that baffles compe- 
tition. The riders, bent on glory, and in the hope of victory, spur the 
flying horses, and animate them both with the lash, and with words of 
exhortation. You would think that every thing was in motion, accord- 
ing to Heraclitus, and that the opinion of Zeno was false, who says that 
there is no such thing as motion in the matter. In another part at a 
distance are the wares of the rustics, instruments of agriculture, swine 
with long flanks, and cows with distended udders, 

Cows of unwieldy size and woolly sheep, 

mares for ploughs, drays, or waggons, some in foal, others with their 
colts following them, wanton young things, unwilling to leave their 
mothers. To this city, out of every nation under heaven, resort mer- 
chants with their merchandise brought from beyond the sea. 

Arabia sends her gold, Saba its frankincense ; 
Scythia her arms, and rich soil'd Babylon 
Her oil of palms, the Nile its precious stones, 
China her purple vests, Gallia her wines, 
Norwegians, Russians, send their grieze and sables. 

According to the Chronicles, London is more ancient than Rome ; 
for whereas both have the same Trojan original, London was built by 
Brutus before Rome was founded by Romulus and Remus ; wherefore 
also they still use the same ancient laws, and common institutions. 
Like Rome, too, London is divided into wards; for annual consuls it 
has its sheriffs ; it enjoys the privilege of a council and lesser magis- 
tracies; there are sewers and aqueducts in the streets, and a different 
forum for the different kinds of causes, deliberative, demonstrative, or 
judicial, and each kind of merchandise has its stated days. I do not 
believe there is any city, which has more commendable customs, for 
going to church and honouring the laws of God, keeping holidays, 
giving alms, entertaining strangers, ratifying contracts, contracting 
marriages, giving banquets, amusing their guests, or in performing 
funerals, and burying the dead. The only plagues which infest Lon- 
don are immoderate drinking on the part of fools, and frequent fires. 
Moreover, almost all the bishops, abbats, and nobles of England are, 
as it were, citizens, and enjoy the privileges of the municipality. They 
have beautiful houses in the city, where they reside, and make great 
expense, when they attend the councils and great meetings, summoned 
by our lord the king, or their metropolitan, or brought thither by their 
own private business. 

Of its Games. 

We now come to speak of the sports of the city, for it would not do 
that it should be only a place of usefulness and serious business, if it were 
not also a place of mirth and pleasure ; wherefore also on the seals of 
the supreme pontiffs, even to the time of the last Pope Leo, on one side 


of the bull is engraved the figure of Peter the fisherman, and above 
him the key, as if held out to him from heaven by God, and round him 
a verse, 

For me the vessel thou didst leave, 
Therefore from me the key receive. 

On the other side was stamped the city, with the inscription, 
' Golden Rome.' Moreover, it was said in honour of Augustus Caesar, 
and of Rome 

It rains all night : sports usher in the day: 
Thus Ceesar holds with Jove divided sway. 

London, in place of theatrical sights and scenic exhibitions, has games 
of a holier character, and representations of the miracles, which the 
holy confessors wrought, or of their sufferings, by which the constancy 
of the martyrs was proved. Furthermore, every year on the day called 
the Carnival, if I may begin with the games of the children (for we 
were all children once), all the school-boys carry to their masters their 
fighting-cocks, and the whole morning is given up to the sport of see- 
ing the cocks fight in the schools. After dinner, all the youth of the 
city go out into the fields, under the city-walls, to play the favourite 
game of ball. The scholars of each faculty have their own bah 1 ; and 
the followers of every occupation in the city have theirs also. The 
elders, fathers, and rich men of the city, come on horseback to see the 
young men play, and in their own way they grow young again in the 
company of the young. Their natural heat seems to be stirred up in 
them, at the sight of so much activity, and by sympathizing in the 
more unrestrained mirth of the younger ones. Every Sunday in 
Quadragesima, after dinner, a fresh swarm of youths go forth into the 
country on war-steeds, ever foremost in the contest ; 

Taught to manosuvre in the rapid course. 

The sons of the citizens who are laymen, sally forth in bodies from 
the gates, armed with lances and warlike shields ; the younger ones 
with spears without iron, sharpened at the end ; they get up a sham- 
fight, and carry on warlike games and all kinds of military exercise in 
the meadows. Many courtiers also are present, for the king himself is 
not far off; and many young men from the households of the bishops, 
councillors, and barons, who have not yet been rewarded with the belt 
of knighthood, come there for the pleasure of contending with one 
another. All are encouraged by the hope of victory, whilst the fiery 
horses neigh and champ their bits. When at length their loud hoofs 
ring along the ground, the young men, their riders, divide into squa- 
drons ; some follow those who are before them, but cannot catch them ; 
others overtake their comrades, upset them, and gallop off, leaving 
them sprawling on the ground. On the days of Lent they represent 
a kind of naval battle. They fix a target on a mast, a vessel is then 
impelled by oars and the current, bearing on the stern a young man 
armed with a lance to strike the target with. If he shatters the spear 
in pieces on the target, and keeps his footing, he effects his purpose ; 


but if the lance remains unbroken by the blow, the man who bears it is 
thrown overboard into the river, and the vessel floats quickly by. 
There are, however, two other boats moored one on each side of the 
target, with several young men on board, whose business it is to pick 
up the man that falls overboard, either when he first sinks, or when he 
again rises to the surface. Meanwhile, the bridge and the quays along 
the river are crowded with spectators, ready enough to laugh at what is 
going on. During the summer, the young men exercise themselves 
every holiday in leaping, shooting with the bow, running, wrestling, 
and slinging, and practising with buckler and javelin, which they throw 
beyond a mark, and pull back with a thong. 

And whilst the moon shines on them from the sky, 
In circles swift the youths and maidens fly; 
Weave curious mazes as around they go, 
And trip the earth with light fantastic toe. 

In winter almost all their holidays before dinner are spent in seeing 
another kind of sport ; either the foaming boar fights for his life, and 
uses his lightning-tusks to save his bacon, or stout bulls with fierce 
horns, and huge bears fight with dogs that are let loose against them. 
When the great marsh which washes the northern walls of the city 
is frozen over, numerous bands of young men go out to play on the 
ice. There they arrange their feet at a set distance, and gaining addi- 
tional rapidity as they move, they traverse an enormous space with one 
side advanced before the other. Others make seats of a large mass of 
ice, and whilst one sits, the others holding by their hands pull him 
along, with such rapidity of motion on so slippery a surface, that they 
often trip their feet, and all fall together. Others of them are more 
knowing in their play, for they fit the leg-bones of animals to their feet, 
binding them firmly round their ankles, and hold in their hands poles 
shod with iron, which they strike against the ice, and thus impel them- 
selves on it with the swiftness of a bird or a ball from an engine. 
Sometimes it is agreed that two of them shall advance one against the 
other in this way from a great distance ; they rush together, each lifts 
his staff to strike the other, and the contest ends by one or both falling, 
and receiving some severe bodily injury ; for after they are down, the 
velocity still acting, carries them past one another, and wherever the ice 
comes in contact with their head, they become wholly excoriated. Some- 
times a leg or an arm, if they fall with it under them, is broken ; but 
theirs is an age that covets glory ; youth is fond of victory, and prac- 
tises itself in sham battles that it may succeed better in real ones. 
Many of the citizens take pleasure in hawks, falcons, hounds, and such- 
like sports ; they have the right of hunting in Middlesex, Hertford, 
the whole of Chiltrey, and in Kent as far as the river Cray. Formerly 
the Londoners were called Trinovantes; and they repelled Julius 
Caesar, whose delight it was to wade through paths steeped in blood : 
wherefore Lucan says, he 

Assailed the Britons, and then turned and fled. 
The city of London has produced several men who have subjected 


many kingdoms, and even the Roman empire ; besides other heroes 
whose fame has reached to heaven, as was promised to Brutus by the 
oracle of Apollo ; 

Far in the west, beyond the Gallic realms, 
There lies an isle wash'd by the waves of ocean : 
Thither direct thy course ; there shalt thou rest, 
And there a second Troy thy sons shall greet; 
There kings shall reign, claiming thee for their sire, 
And all the land to them shall subject be. 

Afterwards when Christianity had spread, this city produced Con- 
stantine, son of the Empress Helena, who dedicated the Roman city 
and his imperial insignia to God and St. Peter, and to Silvester, Pope 
of Rome, to whom also he humbled himself like a servant, and took no 
more pleasure in being saluted as emperor, but as the defender of the 
holy Roman church. He it was who, to prevent the peace of our lord 
the pope from being annoyed by the bustle of his own presence, gave 
up the city altogether to his lordship the pope, and went and built for 
himself the city of Byzantium. In modern times, also, London has 
produced the most illustrious and magnificent sovereigns, the Empress 
Matilda, King Henry III., and St. Thomas, the archbishop, that glo- 
rious martyr of Christ, of whom we may say with the poet, 

No nobler, brighter character e'er dwelt 
Upon this earth, none ever lived more dear 
To all good men within the Roman world. 



To the most holy arch-prelate of the holy Church of Canterbury, Baldwin 
and his successors, as many as shall be canonically elected to succeed 
his holiness, the least of his servants, Herbert de Bosham, health in the 
Lord, and the obedience which is due to fathers. 

I have penned this history of the life and actions of our glorious 
new martyr, Saint Thomas, your predecessor, not in that magnifi- 
cence of style and solemnity of expression which the dignity of the 
subject demands, but as power has been given me from on high. 
" Lofty themes," says a certain writer, " do not suit humble talents." 
But that the great actions of that great man may not in a long succes- 
sion of fleeting generations become faint by time, or entirely forgotten, 
I have willingly and knowingly taken upon my shoulders a burden to 
which they are unequal, particularly as nearly all those who witnessed 
with me the passion of that blessed saint, have now been removed from 
the world, and are asleep in Christ ; wherefore it especially behoves 



me who survive them to execute this task. I have therefore put my 
hand to the work, for I would rather, if it must be so, be charged with 
imprudence than with backwardness or neglect. Nor do I doubt that 
your fatherly love will pardon me, if with filial devotion I endeavour at 
length to restore to you and to the world by my pen the great example 
that was snatched out of it ; an example without stain, which you may 
imitate, by which you may direct the administration of your episcopal 
duties, and whose history you may daily read. To you especially doth 
his example appertain, that as he did, you may do likewise. Where- 
fore also throughout the whole of this history I have painted him as an 
example not to be admired for his miracles, but to be imitated for his 
deeds. For in the whole of this history I have passed over the mira- 
cles which others saw, and which were exhibited to convince the unbe- 
lieving. Those miracles alone of the exemplary man have I related, 
which were shown to the faithful that they might reverence and imitate 
them. To you doth this especially appertain, who have been called by 
God, and have obeyed his call, though hesitatingly, if I am not de- 
ceived, to enter the field, and to fill the pastoral chair after so great a 
champion. God grant that you may have his zeal, whose ministry you 
have received ; his virtues, whose commission has been entrusted to 
you ; his diligence in all things, whose pastoral seat you fill. And I a 
little sheep of your flock pray and trust, after my long wanderings, 
through the paths, and pathless places of the desert of this world, to be 
brought back upon your shoulders into our Lord's fold ! 



From Herbert de Bosham. 

As I have had frequent occasion in the course of this history to 
mention the learned men and professors of Thomas, our late lord and 
glorious martyr, who so zealously, and at their own peril adhered to the 
holy father whilst he was steering the vessel of the Church through so 
tempestuous a sea, I have thought it right to set down their blessed 
names at the end of this narrative, that they may not be lost for 

I. First and foremost of all was he the most learned of them all, 
THOMAS himself. And as more learned, so was he more distinguished 
than they, washing in red wine his robe, and in the blood of the purple 
grape his mantle. Like his great Master, alone he trod the wine-press, 
and coming out of Edom with stained garments from Bosra, ascended 
into heaven. 

II. But among the professors of Thomas, the most learned was a 
distinguished man, by birth and name a LOMBARD, from the celebrated 
city of Placentia. He was long nurtured on the milk of his nursing 


mother, Christ's spouse, the Church, but at length was weaned there- 
from, and separated from her bosom, became great in learning and 
wisdom, and during the exile and retirement of our master, taught him 
the sacred canons. At his feet sat the disciple who writes these things. 
He and I were his inseparable companions, until for his distinguished 
merit he was called away from exile, and made a cardinal of the holy 
Roman church, and finally promoted by the Roman pontiff to the arch- 
bishopric of Beneventum. 

III. After him comes JOHN OF SALISBURY, an Englishman, and de- 
riving his surname from the place of his birth. By God's grace he 
implanted in himself the two eyes of the Church, wisdom and learning, 
which were abundantly given him by the Spirit. He remained with 
our late martyr in all his temptations even to the end ; and for his high 
merits, not his own, but those of the illustrious martyr, as he fancied, 
was called out of his native land by the Lord, to preside over the dio- 
cese of Chartres, in the province of Sens, where he had been with us 
before in exile. 

IV. After him comes ROBERT FOLIOTH, an Englishman by birth, 
and at this time archdeacon of Oxford, a person of much grace and 
virtue, whose life and conversation would point him out as a second 
Laban, married to two sisters. But for some reason or other, he did 
not accompany his father into exile, for which he had previously ob- 
tained the holy man's licence and blessing. At a later period, for his 
distinguished merit he was advanced to the bishopric of Hereford. 

V. Next comes REGINALD, by birth an Englishman, but by surname 
and education a Lombard, a man of prudence for his time of life, in 
action bold and strenuous. He was with us for aome time in our exile, 
but was the first who gave us cause for sorrow by receding from us and 
returning to the court, there to serve the prince, and militate against us. 
But in the precious and triumphal death of our lord, by the providence 
of the Most High, he turned back to him who had been his former 
master. Afterwards by his own industry and honesty he was removed 
from the court to the Church, and promoted to the bishopric of 

VI. We next have GERARD PUCEI.LE, an Englishman of high name 
and reputation. After long drinking the troubled waters of Syor, he 
at length quaffed the purer streams of Siloe. Our lord and father, 
before he went abroad, admitted him to holy orders, and bestowed on 
him his first ecclesiastical preferment. After running the whole day 
with us, towards its close he relaxed his speed, and seeking rest turned 
aside from following us. But after the removal of our lord from the 
world, his good and honest life, combined with his learning, earned for 
him the bishopric of Coventry. 

VII. After him follows HUGH NUNAUNT, by birth a Norman, and 
at that time archdeacon of Lisieux, discreet in council for his years, 
and combining in his actions both prudence and bravery. He was 
reconciled to the king before our exile was ended, and with the permis- 
sion of our father returned home. For years he remained faithful to 
the king, and was afterwards promoted either by the Church or the 
court, I cannot say which ; but at all events he succeeded on the death 
of the abovenamed Gerard to the bishopric of Coventry. 

VIII. GILBERT, surnamed GLANVILE, was by birth an Englishman; 

c c2 


Ci.lliJ- '.if<J 

the manner of his life was good and honest; he conformed himself to 
all those with whom he conversed, and obtained distinction, for his 
knowledge both of canon and civil law. When once he had joined us, 
he departed not from us, though he was the last of all that were called 
tojoin us. Yet though he was the last that took part with our father, 
he is at present, whilst I am writing, nearer to him than all the others, 
being elevated to the dignity of bishop of Rochester. 

IX. And now 1 must enumerate those, who though not bishops, but 
in a private station, were nevertheless great and able men. First comes 
RANDULF DE SERRA, who though not a bishop, equalled a bishop in the 
sanctity of his life. Though he tasted not the sour grape, yet were his 
teeth set on edge thereby. For though neither of the family nor of the 
household of the archbishop, yet he was driven into exile with his 
parents, who were fitter for the grave than for banishment. Afterwards, 
for his distinguished worth he was promoted to the deanery of the me- 
tropolitan church of Rheims. 

X. Next to him was JORDAN, or as he is called by others GORDIAN 
de Melbourn, an Englishman, at that time archdeacon, and afterwards 
dean of Cbichester. He had made considerable progress in learning for 
the short time which he had devoted to it; but because he had bought a 
house, he excused himself, and did not follow the holy father into 

XL Next comes MATTHEW, [English] an Englishman both by name 
and nation, of the city of Chichester, an honest youth of bold and in- 
dustrious habits. He had already made much progress in letters when 
he was drawn aside by the cares of the court, and of the world. Whilst 
I am writing this, he is dean of Chichester, but because he had no call, 
he did not follow our father into banishment. 

XII. After him comes GERVASE, surnamed of Chichester, where he 
also was born. He was a youth of much praise, both for his learning 
and for his conduct ; but as like the former he had no call, he did not 
leave his native land. 

XIII. Next is JOHN OF TILBURY, by birth an Englishman, of much 
courage and eloquence. Like a learned and ready scribe, he brought 
forth from his treasure things both new and old ; but his feebleness of 
body and advanced years excused him from following the holy father. 

XIV. After him was PHILIP DE CAUNE, an Englishman, of a mild 
and simple character. He had exhausted the powers both of his 
mind and body in studying the laws of men, and followed our father 
into exile ; but when he had borne for a while the weight of poverty, 
he found his shoulders unequal to it, and yearned for relief: wherefore, 
with the permission and blessing of our holy father, he returned to his 
native land. 

XV. Then comes HEUVEY of London, where he was born. ' He 
had borrowed of the ^Egyptians vessels both of gold and silver, but 
when he was in the desert he desired to be fed with manna. Our 
father sent him on a message to the apostolic pontiff, but he was 
cut short on the road by death. 

XVI. After him comes GUNTER, surnamed of Winchester, which 
was the place of his birth. He was a mild and upright man, though 
timid, but without reproach. What he wanted in learning, was amply 
made up in the purity of his life. Like Zaccheus he was short of 


stature, and had mounted the sycamore-tree to see our lord pass 
by. He remained with our master through all his trials, faithful 
and constant to the last. 

XVII. Next to him was ALEXANDER, called in his native tongue 
CUELLIN [LEWELLEN] : he was by birth and surname a Welshman, 
of much learning, witty and talkative. But words were not his 
only virtues : for though he was prompt in his tongue, he was 
prompter still in action, and took part with our father and for our 
father, now bidden, now unbidden, and again when sent on an 
embassy : for amidst besetting dangers he conducted himself with 
equal caution, courage, and constancy; besides which he possessed 
that feature so valuable in the character of his nation, that he 
was as faithful as he was clever. 

XVIII. and XIX. There were moreover two brothers ROLAND and 
HARIALD, Lombards, of much industry and learning. As they were both 
poor, our father, in respect of their wisdom and learning, gave them a 
yearly pension out of his own small stock, ten marks to the first, and a 
hundred shillings to the second ; this he did during all the years of 
his foreign pilgrimage. 

XX. There is one still remaining of our lord's company, who was 
much beloved by his holy master. I place him here by himself apart, 
because of his singular greatness and great singularity of character, 
and because he was among the last that was called to join us. His 
proper name was HUMBERT, and he was by nation a Lombard, of 
the illustrious city of Milan, eloquent in discourse and able in action. 
He ascended through the ranks of the Church from one virtue to 
another whilst we were still in exile : he was first archdeacon of 
Bourges, and then was called by our lord and became one of us. 
But afterwards for his distinguished merits he was promoted to be 
archbishop of his native city of Milan ; and in the second or third 
year after, being elevated to the sovereign pontificate of Rome, at 
this moment, under the name of Urban the Third, rules the universal 

From this catalogue then we may judge how great and magnificent 
was our lord the glorious martyr himself; who, though stripped of 
every thing and banished from his country, rallied around him such 
champions in the cause of God and the Church. 

There were moreover others, learned and zealous, whom I do not 
now mention, who nevertheless ran the race even to the goal, and 
were faithful to our master. Among whom, by God's providence, 
was he, the premature one, the least of all of them, the disciple who 
writes this history, HERBERT by name, an Englishman by nation, and 
surnamed from the place of his birth, HERBERT DE BOSHAM. 

And let me not omit to mention here that clerk of whom I have 
before spoken, who was wounded in the arm during our master's 
death-struggle, EDWARD GRIM, an Englishman ; and I place him here 
apart from the rest, because though of the archbishop's diocese, yet 
he was not of his household ; for it was only by accident that he had 
come to visit the archbishop after his return from exile, wherefore I 
cannot place him in the number of the archbishop's learned men ; 
but he is now dead, and placed, I hope, by the Most High in the 
number of his saints in heaven. 




In the year of our Lord 1 164, in the sixth year of Pope Alexander and 
the eleventh of Henry II., the illustrious king of the English, in the 
presence of the same king, was made an inquiry and revision of part 
of the customs, liberties, and dignities of his ancestors, to wit, King 
Henry his grandfather and others, such as ought to be observed in his 
kingdom. And it was in consequence of the strife and dissensions 
which had arisen between the clergy and the king's justices and the 
barons of the kingdom about the customs and dignities of the king- 
dom, that this inquiry or revision was made, in presence of the 
archbishops and bishops, the clergy, earls, barons, and nobles of the 
kingdom ; and when the said customs had been revised by the arch- 
bishops, bishops, earls, barons, nobles, and ancients of the kingdom, 
they were acknowledged and conceded by 

Thomas, archbishop of Canterbury ; Roger, archbishop of York ; 
Gilbert, bishop of London; Henry, bishop of Winchester; Nigel, 
bishop of Ely ; William, bishop of Norwich ; Robert, bishop of Lin- 
coln; Hilary, bishop of Chichester; Joceline, bishop of Salisbury; 
Richard, bishop of Chester ; Bartholomew, bishop of Exeter ; Robert, 
bishop of Hereford ; David, bishop of Menevia ; Roger, bishop elect 
of Worcester ; who declared by word of mouth that they would observe 
them faithfully towards our lord the king and his heirs in good faith 
and without subterfuge ; in the presence of Robert, earl of Leicester ; 
Reginald, earl of Cornwall ; Conan, count of Brittany ; John, count 
of Augy ; Roger, earl of Clare ; Godfrey, earl of Mandeville; Hugh, 
earl of Chester ; William, earl of Arundel ; Earl Patrick ; William, 
earl of Ferrars; Richard de Lucy, Reginald de St. Valerie, Roger 
Bigod, Reginald de Warenne, Richard de Aquila, William de Bracy, 
Richard deCambilla, Nigel Mowbray, Simon de Beauchamp, Humphrey 
de Bohun, Matthew de Hereford, Walter Meduan, Manasseh Biset 
the butler, William Mallet, William de Courcy, Robert de Dunstan- 
ville, Joceline de Baliol, William Lanvalis, William de Caisneto, God- 
frey de Vere, William de Hastings, Hugh de Moreville, Alan de 
Neville, Simon Fitz-Peter, William Malduit the chamberlain, John 
Malduit, John Marshall, Peter de Mara, and many other nobles, both 
spiritual and temporal. 

Part of these customs and dignities are contained in this present 
writing : the heads of which are as follows : 

I. Of the advowson and presentation to churches: if any dispute 
shall arise between laics, or between clerks and laics, or between 
clerks, let it be tried and decided in the court of our lord the king. 

II. Churches of the king's fee shall not be given in perpetuity 
without his consent and licence. 

Ill: Clerks accused of any crime, shall be summoned by the king's 
justice into the king's court, to answer there for whatever the king's 
court shall determine they ought to answer there, and in the ecclesi- 


astical court for whatever it shall be determined that they ought to 
answer there : yet so that the king's justice shall send into the court 
of the holy Church to see in what way the matter shall there be 
handled : and if the clerk shall confess or be convicted, the Church 
for the future shall not protect him. 

IV. No archbishop or bishop, or any other person, shall leave the 
kingdom without the king's licence : and if they wish to leave it, the 
king shall be empowered, if he pleases, to take security from them that 
they will do no harm to the king or kingdom, either in going or re- 
maining, or in returning. 

V. Persons excommunicated are not to give bail ad remanens, nor 
to make oath, but only to give bail and pledge that they will stand by 
the judgment of the Church, that they may be acquitted. 

VI. Laics shall not be accused, save by certain legal accusers and 
witnesses in presence of the bishops, so that the archdeacon may not 
lose his rights, or any thing which accrues to him therefrom. And 
if those who are arraigned are such that no one is willing or dares to 
accuse them, the sheriff on demand from the bishop shall cause 
twelve loyal men of the village to swear before the bishop that they 
will declare the truth in that matter according to their conscience. 

VII. No one who holds of the king in chief, nor any of his domestic 
servants, shall be excommunicated, nor their lands be put under an 
interdict, until the king has been first consulted, if he is in the king- 
dom, or, if the king is abroad, his justiciary, that he may do what is 
right in that matter, and so that whatever belongs to the king's court 
may therein be settled, and the same on the other hand of the ecclesias- 
tical court. 

VIII. Appeals, when they arise, must be made from the archdeacon 
to the bishop, and from the bishop to the archbishop, and if the arch- 
bishop shall fail in administering justice, the parties shall come before 
our lord the king, that by his precept the controversy may be ter- 
minated in the archbishop's court, so that it may not proceed further 
without the consent of our lord the king. 

IX. If a dispute shall arise between a clerk and a laic, or between a 
laic and a clerk, about a tenement, which the clerk wishes to claim as 
eleemosynary, but the laic claims as lay-fee, it shall be settled by the 
declaration of twelve loyal men through the agency of the king's 
capital justice, whether the tenement is eleemosynary or lay-fee, in 
presence of the king's justice. And if it shall be declared that it is 
eleemosynary, it shall be pleaded in the ecclesiastical court ; but 
if a lay-fee, unless both shall claim the tenement of the same bishop 
or baron, it shall be pleaded in the king's court : but if both 
shall claim of that fee from the same bishop or baron, it shall be 
pleaded in his court, yet so that the declaration abovenamed shall 
not deprive of seizin him who before was seized, until he shall be 
divested by the pleadings. 

X. If any man belonging to a city, castle, borough, or king's royal 
manor T , shall be summoned by the archdeacon or bishop to answer 
for a crime, and shall not comply with the summons, it shall be lawful 
to place him under an interdict, but not to excommunicate him, until 

1 Domiuico manerio rcgis. 


the king's principal officer of that place be informed thereof, that he may 
justify his appearing to the summons ; and if the king's officer shall 
fail in that matter, he shall be at the king's mercy, and the bishop shall 
forthwith coerce the party accused with ecclesiastical discipline. 

XI. The archbishops, bishops, and all other persons of the kingdom 
who hold of the king in chief, shall hold their possessions of the king 
as barony, and answer for the same to the king's justices and officers, 
and follow and observe all the king's customs and rectitudes, and like 
other barons be present at the judgments of the king's courts with the 
barons, until the judgment is carried to the loss of members or death. 

XII. When an archbishopric, bishopric, abbacy, or priory of the 
king's domain shall be vacant, it shall be in his hand, and he shall 
receive from it all the revenues and proceeds, as of domain. And 
when the time shall come for providing for that church, our lord the 
king shall recommend the best persons to the church, and the election 
shall be made in the king's chapel, with the king's consent, and the advice 
of the persons of the kingdom whom he shall have summoned for 
that purpose. And the person elected shall there do homage and fealty 
to our lord the king, as to his liege lord, of life and limb, and of 
his earthly honours, saving his order, before he is consecrated. 

XIII. If any of the king's nobles shall have refused to render 
justice to an archbishop or bishop, or archdeacon, for himself or any 
of his men, our lord the king shall justify them. And if by chance any 
one shall have deforced our lord the king of his rights, the arch- 
bishops, bishops, or archdeacons, shall justify him that he may render 
satisfaction to the king. 

XIV. The cattle of those who are in forfeiture to the king shall not 
be detained by the Church or the cemetery, in opposition to the king's 
justice ; for they belong to the king, whether they are found in the 
Church or without. 

XV. Pleas for deb*s which are due, whether with the interposition 
of a pledge of faith or not, belong to the king's court. 

XVI. The sons of rustics shall not be ordained without the consent 
of their lord, in whose land they are known to have been born. 

These are the royal customs and dignities, which were revised by the 
aforesaid archbishops, bishops, earls, barons, nobles, and ancients of 
the kingdom at Clarendon, on the fourth day before the Purification 
of the blessed Virgin Mary, in presence of the king and our lord Henry, 
the king's son. 


GILBERT & RIVINOTON, Printers, St. John's Square, London. 




Giles, John Allen 

The life and letters 
of Thomas & Becket